Wednesday 20 January 2010

Bop Social, Dead Social Club, Underground Bounders and The Vanity - Bull and Gate 15 January 2010

Bop Social pic courtesy of The Hux Capacitor

We start the New Year just as we left the last one, in the cramped surroundings of the Bull and Gate.

Tonight is one of those promiscuous evenings out when I know nothing about any of the bands involved so am taking a certain degree of pot luck. Things get off to an inauspicious start with the news that that the one act that had intrigued me on paper ‘Me & The Beast’ have cried off.

No matter. First up we have the awkwardly monickered Underground Bounders and The Vanity. This cheerful three piece tick along in relaxed fashion, with droll, often almost spoken delivery from vocalist Tors. She is Siouxsie Sioux–like in the true sense, gently amused, nothing particularly forced, the south London voice only raised on occasion. The accompaniment from Ray and Josh is catchy and simple in a Hot Chip-y kind of way and it’s all very enjoyable. They are not earth shattering, but they are likeable, and that will do. If they have a failing tonight it is purely that they are under-amplified, which may not be their fault.

Dead Social Club are also in a happy mood. Or rather singer Paul is, shuffling round the stage, paying court to the other members of his band. The reason for their rather last day of term attitude is that changes are afoot – the guitarist is off on an extended sabbatical and the bassist is leaving the band for good.

They play a genial keyboard heavy pop rock that references any number of popular bands from White Lies to (inevitably) The Killers. However, just because they are generic it doesn’t mean that they are not worth seeing, should their line-up issues resolve themselves. There are some decent songs here and these are well put over.

Headliners Bop Social (we’re very ‘social’ tonight) are much more drilled and consciously ‘arty’ than the previous two acts. Singer Tom stands ramrod straight and marshals his band through a tight set of up tempo pop rock. As with the previous band, originality is not necessarily their most obvious feature, but equally, they provide strong entertainment while you are in their presence and an opportunity to shake your booty.

This all sounds very half-hearted on my part. It isn’t meant to be. In the same way that I can’t really see any of tonight’s acts progressing much higher up the ladder than they are at the moment, equally I greatly value these bands and venues such as this that allow them to play. I’ve been seeing acts play in tiny spaces for longer than I care to admit and one thing that I do know is that standards have always risen and will continue to rise.

It may always be the case that a headlining band will have something special or different about them (or simply more hangers on), but the standard of acts that fill the undercard are generally better than they have ever been. Some are serious enterprises, some are just mates having a laugh, but the sheer variety and enthusiasm of such bands will always keep me coming back for more. I’m happier with a diamond in the rough than any number of Industry-approved ‘packages’.

So, tonight, Underground Bounders and The Vanity, Dead Social Club and Bop Social, I salute you. (And if I am happily wrong, and you get to Wembley – can I blag a ticket?)

Saturday 16 January 2010

Some Bands You Might Like In 2010

When you are given lemons, make lemonade. When the weather gives you a tiny bit of snow and the ongoing abomination that is the train route ‘operated’ (I use the term ironically) by the incompetent, venal fucktardary that is First Capital Connect and you can’t get to gigs, then sit back and ponder those UK bands that deserve a bit of love.

The Stilletoes. Magnificently angry femme-fronted punks from Wales. Their album ‘ADHDreams’ was one of my favourites of 2009. Sung mostly in Welsh, it fair sizzles with rage and frustration at the injustice of the world and being in a femme-fronted punk band from Wales. Singer Efa’s voice is so raspy that she sounds like she gargles with sand and broken glass and would spit either of these materials in your eye if you looked at her funny.

Ghostcat: Another band that I have not yet seen, but ooooh! - I wanna! At present they are mostly making appearances late at club nights, where they unleash tracks as groovetastic as “This Is A Bust”, which was my single of last year. This stomper, with its insanely catchy of chorus exhorting us to “Get your muthafuckin’ hands up!” is so catchy that it makes the Ting Tings sound like Stockhausen. One sniff of the mainstream and these babies are going to be all over everywhere.

Ghostcat / This Is a Bust from KUSKUS on Vimeo.

The Tigerpicks: This Manchester band has been honing itself for about eighteen months now and could go huge. The double vocal attack of Emma Longbarrow and Frankie Ross is a throwback to the days when singers could really sing – I saw them a couple of years ago and was minded of Cilla Black when she was a sexy, scrawny, semi-feral whippet from the cloakroom of the Cavern Club. Only there were two of them. Mighty electro tunes from Martyn Anderson makes for floor-shaking goodness.

Tom Allalone & The 78’s: These retro rockers from Gravesend are a well-kept secret that should be shared with the world at large. Jaw-droppingly frenetic in the live setting, they released a terrific album of Sixties sounding garage rock, most of which deal with alcohol and riotous behaviour in the Essex area. It was called ‘Major Sins Part One’. It would be a major sin to miss them.

Tom Allalone & The 78s - Crashland

Tom Allalone & The 78s MySpace Music Videos

And finally, a bit of a cheat, because they are not from the UK, but hail from California, come Normandie. I came across them on Myspace last year and I’ve barely stopped listening to them since. This California based mob sound exactly like Curve did on their first e.p.- i.e. an enormous Gothic wall of drums and guitars and metal that runs over you like a juggernaut. Listen to ‘Thrill of Victory’ and tremble, puny humans. If they ever come over to this side of the pond they will freakin’ OWN us. Well, me, at any rate.

Normandie - "Thrill of Victory" from jnerebel on Vimeo.

A handful of goodies to tide you over. Normal service resumes shortly.

Monday 4 January 2010

Moja, Molice, Elohymn and Royalinserts at Bull and Gate - 29 December 2009


They had me at ‘Hello’.

Specifically, they had me at “Hello. Hello. Hello. Molice. Moo-leece, Moooo-leeeeece!”

Singer/guitarist Rinko stands legs akimbo and then proceeds with a set of rattling garage rock and pop accompanied by the most lascivious display of pelvic thrusting and gyration since Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. Molice should only be filmed from the waist up, because there’s too much Devil down below.

Molice are one of a trio of Japanese bands doing a whistle stop tour of the UK between Christmas and New Year. The tour is promoted by The Big Jugs Experience, who have been putting on bands in Osaka since 2006 and now bring us their vision of rocktastic experimental goodness.

The first act of the night were Royalinserts, who are part UK and part Osakan, and feature some of the promoters. They play a ferocious and stripped down no-nonsense straight ahead brand of guitar punk. This three piece stand firm in the centre of the stage and blast it out. It is loud, it is uncomplicated, it is good.

Royalinserts are followed by Elohymn who hail from no further east than Chorley. They are as intricate and complex as the previous act was simplistic. They take ages to set up, the stage strewn with all manner of wires, effects pedals and laptops, all arranged around a substantial drum kit which is arranged so that the drummer is sat with his back to the audience, giving us a chance to marvel at his prowess. There is so much equipment that the rest of the band have very limited space to move. It’s like playing a gig in the middle of a NASA control room.

Elohymn are instrumental, but favour upbeat percussive rhythms and swathes of rock guitar rather than ambient noodling. By their very nature they cannot help but be a bit static, but they do their best to lay on an entertaining show. When they start I am sceptical, but they have won me over by the end.

Once Elohymn have been cleared away, the aforementioned Molice come on and tear the place apart. Rinko flares her nostrils, Ikuhiro slaps his bass and we all bounce about to the almost Latin-tinged track ‘Headphone’. This is pop heaven.

The headliners tonight are the extraordinary Moja. They are a two piece comprising a little guy (Haruhiku) with an enormous bass guitar and a female drummer (Masumi) who has the nickname ‘Drum Destroyer’ because of her prowess.

And they are wonderful. Haruhiku sings and dances around with his instrument, doing his best to keep out of the way of the flailing Masumi, who is a blurring, whirling, crashing, bashing maelstrom of a performer, a jaw dropping virtuoso. At the climax of each song she leaps up, hovers above her kit and crashes down upon it with a triumphant “Yi!” We’re some distance from Meg White, it’s fair to say.

By the end of their tumultuous set, both musicians are stood atop the drum kit, bashing away at the metal beneath them. A storming end to the evening, and to 2009.