Friday 10 December 2010

Homesick Hustlers / The Puppet Masters at Camden Barfly 09 December 2010

The Puppet Masters

I leave the office as the protesters attempt to break in

I arrive at the Barfly just in time to catch the last thirty seconds of Phoebo. The resulting snap judgement is that I’m sorry to have missed her. I’ll do better next time.

This evening is the culmination of a sterling project run by The Roundhouse, who over the past ten weeks have “selected four emerging young bands and teamed them up with industry professionals and inspiring session players to improve their sound”. This all sounds very worthy, but the proof is going to be in the performance.

The bands tonight are all very young and very raw, and that is in no way a bad thing – if an act has any spark at all, you should be able to detect it even at this early stage.

The first band that I can give my full attention to is The Puppet Masters and they turn out to be rather wonderful.

Very much at the hard rock end of the musical spectrum, the immediate focal point is the arresting singer Maya Talwatte. Not content with modelling a skirt that appears to have been made out of Christmas wrapping paper, (and not very much of it), she writhes like an eel and, when at a loss for anything else to do, wiggles her bum at the crowd. I’ve seen whole careers built on a lot less.

Her wild-eyed nature child routine plays like a happy amalgam of Kat(i)es Bush and Jane Garside and her roaring vocals work well against the heavy grunge rock of the band. When they start off I initially think that they have a good sound, but not necessarily any songs to go with it. However, after a couple of tracks, everything suddenly starts to click and from then on it is fun all the way. The moment when the singer’s flailing arm whacks a guitarist in the face draws a huge laugh.

The Puppet Masters have real potential and all they need to do now is get more gigs under their belt.

All the acts tonight are well supported; none more so than the next bunch.

Homesick Hustlers have such a wild and devoted following that there are screams every time their name is announced from the stage. Real, Beatles, knicker-wetting screams. Bloody hell!

The MC for the evening introduces the band (squeals) and says that they are uncategorisable. He suggests “swamp blues” and the audience hoot in derision.

Once Homesick Hustlers actually kick off, I’m equally baffled. Most acts can be lazily described as “sounding like band A meets band B” (see my comments on the last act), but with this lot there are so many points of reference that I’m spinning round like a compass at the North Pole.

The band has two singers. Ewa Leszczynska can belt like a bluesy night club trooper and acts as foil to the quite extraordinary loose limbed antics of Ben Walker, who even at this embryonic stage is one of the most effortless charismatic front men I have seen in years.

He half shouts, half sings, half raps. That number of halves doesn’t add up, but this band are way stranger than mathematics. There are elements of hardcore rock, blues, pop and hip hop. To do the analogy thing, the band that they most remind me of, although they sound nothing at all like them, is Rolo Tomassi. There is the same wild sense of anything goes, different styles in bizarre collision, sounds jammed together because it is too much fun not to do so. One track is a kind of bluesy hip hop and another may be a pop rock number. It all works and there are some great tunes here.

The tightly packed crowd are going bat poop crazy and at times the screaming almost drowns out the band. Bloody hell! Again!

At the end, the audience is invited up on stage to sing along with crowd favourite ‘Dr C’s Diagnosis’ (“too much sugar in the morning” apparently). A bevy of young girls surround guitarist Tom Owen and, stroking his hair, squeal at him. He looks both sheepish and delighted. The drummer and bassist, who have been superb tonight, are rather left out – such is the fate of drummers and bassists.

The final act of the evening has to follow that, and that they can’t is no disgrace. The Stowaways are much more traditional indie than either of the previous bands and, although hampered by sound problems, show that they have a singer with a fine falsetto voice. However, to go back to that ‘spark’ that I alluded to earlier, I’m not sure that they have got it.

It’s been an evening of terrific fun. Congratulations to The Roundhouse and all the acts. Tonight the Barfly, tomorrow the world?


Anonymous said...

(About The Puppet Masters) I was at the gig on thursday and was extremeley impressed with The Puppet Masters. They put on an excellent performance especially considering how young they appeared. Its a shame this reveiw talks about only one member of such a fantastic 5 piece band.

Anonymous said...

(About the Puppet Masters)- Talking about puppet masters they should have called them selfs muppets, Spesh the singer i remember one gig i saw them do oh god all i had to do was give her a smoke and she was all over me. There a fantastic band but the singer not so great she gets to much attention because she dress's like a crack whore. Ps. i had sexual intercourse with the singer

Anonymous said...

To the first commenter whats your name mate?

Anonymous said...

I mean second the prick that cant spell properly.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of the The Homesick Hustlers until this, but listening to their myspace they sound incredible. so much variety, and they offer so much more than most bands nowerdays. Definitely a band to watch methinks