Friday 30 April 2010

The Primitives at Scala - 29 April 2010

Tracy Tracy of The Primitives

I’m not really sure why I’m here.

Back in the heady days of 1988 I never paid much attention to The Primitives. They were always that poppy, quite good band on Top Of The Pops. The sort that appeared for one week only and then disappeared as their record plummeted down the charts seven days later.

And yet their legacy has lived on, even though the band split up in 1992. ‘Crash’, a song about drugs, has been appropriated for a road safety campaign, becoming so ubiquitous that it is impossible to hear the track without flinching involuntarily at the prospect of some poor sod flying off their motorbike.

Before we get to the 2010 Primitives, we have support slots from Deep Cut and The Tamborines.

Deep Cut are a peculiar amalgam of droning, buzzing, feedbacking guitars and a peripatetic James Last horn section who appear periodically through the dry ice. The band is fronted by the striking but stern Emma Bailey, whose voice struggles to compete with the noise generated by the various factions on stage. Deep Cut are a bit of a hodge podge that doesn’t really hang together as a coherent whole.

The Tamborines, on the other hand, are drilled to protection, their My Bloody Mary Chain white noise scree-pop marshalled by thunderous drumming.

Guitarist Henrique squalls through great sounding but, let’s be honest, same-y tracks such as ‘Sally O’Gannon’ and ‘Come Together’. Keyboardist Lulu Grave is equally impressive, although she sadly persists with one of the least flattering hair do’s in rock.

The Tamborines are bang on form tonight, the best that I have seen them. They go down well with the crowd.

After a lengthy wait, The Primitives take the stage. Although obviously a little longer in the tooth (ain’t we all?) they are still spry. And so, more importantly are their songs.

The focal point remains the truly tiny singer Tracy Tracy, who is so diminutive that all you can see is a sparkle and a smile and a flash of her still wondrous eyes. She can also teach the Deep Cut a thing or two about projecting your voice over a full band.

The Primitives’ set spans their whole career, from their punky origins and tracks such as ‘Stop Killing Me’ to their woozy, slightly psychedelic power pop stage that includes hit singles ‘Thru The Flowers’, “Way Behind Me” and the aforementioned ‘Crash’, which is dispensed with halfway through the set.

A very rowdy and dangerous mosh pit develops, with hordes of meaty fifty year old blokes crashing into each other. They are loving it, but they’ll feel the bruises tomorrow.

The Primitives are great fun this evening, and fully justify their decision to reform in the aftermath of the sad death of bassist Steve Dullaghan. Catch them at Indie Tracks.

And be safe on the road.

Monday 26 April 2010

Lys, The Kokos and others at Cafe Rocks - 23 April 2010


Tonight sees the end of an era. It’s the last Café Rocks at the Café De Paris before the whole franchise moves across the West End to the subterranean shoe box that is Punk.

But we are going out in style. There are seven acts this evening, and although the quality varies, there is not a completely duff one among them.

The best band of the evening by some degrees of magnitude are Lys, who have hopped across the Channel from Brittany. They are frankly brilliant and one of the best bands that I have come across this year. Strung across the stage are an electric guitar, a miked up acoustic guitar wielded by the personable singer and a thumping bass played by a spandex-clad Isabelle Adjani-alike.

While some bands that you have never seen or heard of previously to the first encounter may pleasantly surprise you, Lys seem like a favourite band that has somehow slipped your mind. It’s epic, fuzzed up, bass-heavy pop music, presented with great affability and charisma. Bluntly, they are boulevards better than most other bands around.

Which is not to say that there is not fun to be had.

The first band of the evening are the Silhouette Showgirls, a decent soul-y rock band featuring a muscular front man with oodles of attitude and a penchant for denim and leather that will see them getting plenty of bookings where the audience value a bit of rough trade. Let’s pretend that I am talking about the record label at this point.

Very enjoyable are The Kokos, who represent a very bouncy collision at the junction of Dr Feelgood and The Wedding Present.

I am wary of writing of Cathy JJ and her band, because she seems to embody every trait of the wannabe desperate for that lucky break. She guilelessly lists the various talent competitions that she has won, and brazenly, hurtingly, treats tonight as an audition. She has a palpable dream of success. I hope that she realises it.

There are also sets tonight from Deportivo (oddly uninteresting Blur copies) and Malham Road, who close proceedings with a set of songs that would sound better remixed, pumped up and blasted out from a podium on some sunny Balearic isle.

I must salute the compere, Micky P, who is a real fan of new music and is clearly gutted to be leaving this great venue, which will now apparently be given over to cover bands.

I shall miss all of this.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

My Tiger My Timing / Plugs - The Lexington, 02 April 2010

My Tiger My Timing

Thwack! Thud! Smash! Tinkle!

It’s rather quiet in here tonight. The only sound is that of the barman practicing his cocktail skills, tossing bottles up in the air. And failing to catch them. Brush! Sweep!

Some while later a band appears. They are My Tiger My Timing and they have brought the funk. And the pop. And the sheer ‘bloody hell’ of seeing an act that is this tight and assured in a venue this small.

Sometimes slickness can be a disadvantage, robbing songs of emotion and making it hard for band and audience to connect; but not so with this lot. Right from the opening number I find myself shuffling from one foot to the other and nodding as though I have known these tunes for ages and am not just hearing them for the first time.

All eyes are on singer Anna Vincent, who bosses the stage with the authority of a Scottish school mistress. She possesses and easy assurance, sometimes dabbing at a keyboard, sometimes grabbing the microphone to stalk the stage.

MTMT deliver songs such as I Am The Sound and This Is Not The Fire with a light-footed dexterity that shows that their natural environment is the dancehall rather than the moshpit. The tunes rumble along on bass lines that are reminiscent of a disco-fied heavy goods vehicle. It a bit Talking Heads circa Remain In Light and a whole lot of stop-bloody-analysing and just shake your junk.

The only momentary lapse of cool comes when keyboard player Sebastian surreptitiously cracks open a tin of lager which sprays all over him.

My Tiger My Timing. My pleasure.

Headliners Plugs have also been hit with the rhythm stick.

This three piece are so bass-heavy that when we heard them rehearsing while sat downstairs earlier we thought that people were moving furniture.

Singer Morgan is having problems with his vocals this evening. His voice keeps cracking and popping and he apologises for sounding as though he is going through puberty. As it is, the band veers far too close, too often to the works of Mr Gordon Sumner for my comfort.

Plugs are certainly energetic, and I am here partly because they were recommended to me – but I find it very hard to get into them. They are certainly going over well with the rest of the crowd, and establish a good rapport. Maybe I’m just funked out.

However, despite the possible shortcomings of the main act, I’ve enjoyed one very fine band today, which is all that I could ever ask for. It’s been a Good Friday.

Monday 5 April 2010

Cold In Berlin / Jumping Ships / Red Drapes - The Macbeth 31 March 2010

Cold In Berlin

It starts on the bar.

There may be a guitarist on stage who has started pummelling his instrument as though it has deeply wronged him, there may be a drummer starting to hit out like a toddler banging a spade on a bucket and there may be a youthful looking bass player clad in black leather as cool as death – but it starts on the bar.
Cold In Berlin have been in hibernation. They have changed shape and reformed much like a moth emerges from a chrysalis. Personnel have changed, names are altered.

So it is UliMy rather than Maya who is poised on the bar, preparing for the moment when she will leap down onto the stage.

The new rhythm section has made a difference to the CIB sound. It still crunches like a sledgehammer, but is tighter, faster, more obviously disciplined. The set now fairly fizzes along with a solid foundation. There is still the possibility and promise of chaos but everything is now controlled.

As is often the case, much of the action takes place in and amongst the audience. From the opening ‘God I Love You’, through to ‘Bleed You Dry’, ‘If You Tear Me Apart’ and other faves, the audience is jumping up and down and trying to dodge out of the way of the increasingly full on incursions from the stage. UliMy is joined in the throng by a guitarist. It’s so intense that a more delicate member of our group decides to leave at this point, unprepared for a band to break the third wall and come at her. It’s all 3D these days.

The set includes new songs and a rampage through an old Bikini Kill track (not that much of a stretch for the way that they sound these days). It’s all magnificent and edges towards a full on finale with both sides of new single ‘Destruction / What Went Wrong?’ Just time at the end for signature tune ‘Total Fear’ which concludes with the infamous cry of “There’s no hope no hope no hope left!”

Never has nihilism sounded so good. Cold In Berlin – back with a bang.

There are two other bands this evening. Jumping Ships are a spiky guitar-driven band whose songs vary wildly in terms of quality, but who hit a very acceptable Futureheads kinda groove when it all comes together.

Red Drapes are dressed from head to foot in black and deliver everything that you would require from a rock band except possibly the need to miss your train in order to catch their entire set. What I saw, I liked, but I didn’t see enough to comment fully.

Winter is over, summer is here. It’s going to be red hot in the UK and Cold In Berlin.