Sunday, 20 January 2008

Club 8 / The Would-Be-Goods / The School – 10 Jan 2008, The Luminaire

It’s the first gig of the year and dress me in a dufflecoat and serve me a Ribena, if Fortuna Pop! haven’t served up the indiest gig of the year as well. The popkids are out in force, queuing up the Lumi stairs alongside the obligatory smattering of Swedes who always turn up to cheer on their countrymen when there’s Scandi-pop in the air.

First up it's Liz Love, a radiant sunbeam of girl-pop charm dressed in a blossom yellow frock, leading her ramshackle gang The School. Despite first appearances, The School are not just another jangley-twee schmindie band, and though they could possibly do with some rather more vigorous rehearsals you can’t help but note the song-craft sensibility at work here. This is twirling baroque pop that’s been lavished with 60s girl-group stylings and cute, school-orchestra instrumentation – note the frowning concentration of the glockenspiel boy. ‘Valentine’ and ‘Let It Slip’ bop and shimmy along sweetly, daydreaming of Darlene Love and dansettes. ‘All I Wanna Do’ rolls in on a ‘Be My Baby’ beat (the best kind of beat), before disconcerting all and sundry with a weird ‘Eastenders’ aping keyboard line. I like The School’s songs best when they flirt with The Beach Boys’ teenage symphonies and The Zombies’ pop odysseys, when the violin adds a burling undertow and unexpected shivers, or when the guitar glides and slides lazily, most notably on the psychedelic storybook swirl of ‘Sunshine’. The band end with the incongruously Christmassy ‘Kiss Me In The Snow’, insisting that it’s a "New Year song". Whatever the weather, The School make me smile.

The Would-Be-Goods are badly served by the sound and by singer Jessica’s cold. There are specks and sparks of life amongst the rather drear rumble of songs going by, but the band’s wit and elegance is cotton-wooled. I stop paying attention and am lured by the Sounds XP chaps entertaining me with a vodka cranberry and moustachioed dance moves. One song makes me look up in interest like a pop-fuelled meercat. Unlikely as it seems, a thumping great glitterbeat and chunky guitar elbow their way into the room. A pity that the ignition fails to catch and the sound peters out into a bleat. Even the racing-green buzz of ‘Emmanuel Beart’ is a tad limp. A pity.

We’ve been wondering if Club 8 are going to be any good live. There are only two of them aren’t there? Will they use backing tracks or what? Happily, core Club 8-ers Karolina and Johan are joined by a band of fellow beautiful people (even the bloke with shaggy hair, vest and a flat cap looks cool – that’s how icily elegant Swedes are) – the line up swelled to three boys and three girls – pleasing symmetry and a nice surprise. No half measures with tapes here, and despite the still slightly dodgy sound Club 8 end up surpassing our expectations. Light from the glitterball shimmers off them as ‘Jesus Walk With Me’ shivers into the room. Karolina’s voice is a cool glass of water – fresh, simple, pure. The set is short and sweet, mixing new album tracks with old, the indie-pop kids twisting gently in the bittersweet breeze blown up by the drifting valium disco of ‘Whatever You Want’ and the brittle, delicate ‘Love In December’. The band ends with the gently grooving bongo-mongo driven ‘Heaven’ with Johan busting out some actual bongos and the song bursting into bloom all blossom bright for the chorus.

And for an encore we get Club 8’s lollopingly cheery hit of yore ‘Saturday Night Engine’ which generates what’s going to have to pass for a rock ‘n’ roll riot tonight with an out-break of enthusiastic audience wiggling and singing-along. Altogether now, "Hey! You ! Stop that singing cause the Club 8 is all there needs to be"

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