Monday, 4 February 2008

The Clientele / The See See / Le Volume Courbe / The No Sorrows - 25 January 2008 – Buffalo Bar

Sean Fortuna Pop! has played a blinder with this month’s Beat Hotel line-up and everyone wants a piece of tonight’s West Coast / psych-folk action. The place is sold out and sold out and sold out. Many-hued indie folk queue anxiously, waiting to be greeted by cheery door-girl Mar Dulok. David Luxembourg drifts by, ticketless. We go for a pre-gig snifter in the pub and nearly choke on our cheap vodka when we realise Kevin Shields is sharing our table. Then we really do choke on our cheap vodka when Terry Hall strolls in to join him. Terry Hall is a bona fide proper Popstar, not a person out of an old indie band. He must be a popstar ‘cos we knew who he was in Primary school. We have to keep glancing at him. Later, when we get our hands stamped with ‘Too Much’ on the door, we remember Fortuna Pop events used to offer a twin stamp that said ‘Too Young’ (I think it’s lost now), how great would it have been to offer Terry Hall a choice between the two? Very great, obviously.

Anyways, it turns out Terry Hall’s son (who we observe asking his Dad for crisps in the pub - sweet!) is playing guitar with Le Volume Courbe. Charlotte Marionneau is Le Volume Courbe adding extra players as and when needed. She has a naif-ish waif-ish charm, cracked, girlish, heavily French-accented vocals and is clearly not that comfortable with being on stage. Full marks to her for braving the crowd and for managing to play a Swanee Whistle on one song with cute dignity. Accompanying Charlotte, alongside the aforementioned guitar are a drummer and Mel from The Clientele – sweeping the group along with elegant dips and glides on violin. The songs are tremulous and delicate, some scant seconds long. ‘I Killed My Best Friend’ is eerily jaunty and spookily enchanting. They end with a whispy, whispery, banjo-pluckin’ version of ‘Freight Train’

Before any of this The No Sorrows play a splendid set of psychedelic space-folk. They fill my head with visions of owls and witches and make earthily mournful music. ‘Wild Sun’ sounds like racing chaotically over green and brown fields and I thoroughly enjoy their haunted songs. Even better, the band’s folksiness is tempered with some good old noise, one song coming on like Dinosaur Jnr’s ‘Thumb’ with distorted guitars bleeding through. The No Sorrows are that rare thing – an intriguing discovery.

With The No Sorrows and Le Volume Courbe in the bag, I can’t fail with The See See, ‘cos I love ‘em (that's me at the front wearing a See See badge like a saddo - look I forgot it was there okay, I didn't wear it on purpose). The band rattle through a rambunctious raft of songs that twirl and stagger between folk, country and psychedelia. Opener ‘Late Morning Light’ swirls sleepy-eyed and spectral into a monster of distortion. ‘Half A Man And A Horse’s Head’ (that would be a kind of inverted Centaur, I guess?) is toe-tappin’ and country-swingin’. ‘Up The Hill’ is hazy and laid-back, riding on sweet vocals and lazily jangled guitars. The See See have the whole ‘band as a gang’ thing nailed as well – they look like they’re enjoying themselves, enjoying playing off of one another – it’s a joy to behold. On top of that, watching Ben Swank’s drumming is a whole new spectator sport, I especially enjoy the bits where he stands up and slides rag-doll-like down the wall to hit the skins. Top entertainment all round.

The Clientele are one of those bands who’ve been knocking around on indie bills for years. I’m always pleased to see ‘em in a line-up, always buy the albums and enjoy them, although never in a this-record-saved-my-life! kind of way. Last year I looked the other way, and somehow The Clientele got mighty popular – hence the frenzied queuing tonite. I’ve tried hard to enjoy the band’s latest album ‘God Save The Clientele’– as everyone else seems to be raving about it – but it keeps skating off my ears. Singer/guitarist Alasdair is a virtuoso genius on the old twangling strings, though, and tonight’s set turns out to be pretty darn mesmerising.

The Clientele kick off with one of my faves, ‘Since K Got Over Me’, effortlessly sending out shimmers of sound like ripples on a lake. Theirs’ is a distinctive sound, full of floaty, reverb-ed guitar and Alasdair’s ghost-vocals, the songs sounding like out-takes from Buffalo Springfield’s orphan album ‘Last Time Around’. The Clientele are masters of their craft – a drifting, languid, filtered-sunlight West Coast vibe, but their set shows there are other strings to their bow. There’s the sudden, surprising funkiness of the feisty ‘Bookshop Casanova’, and ‘The Garden At Night’ breaks out the garage stomp for a brief but frenzied fuzz attack.
The piece de resistance is an epic version of ‘Lamplight’. As the song flickers, the room (cramped as it is) shrinks down to a pinpoint focus on Alasdair’s guitar which starts speaking in tongues, shivering and whirling out dervish music. It’s hypnotically beautiful.

To close, Lal from The Peoples Revolutionary Choir lurks awkwardly in a corner of the tiny stage to narrate his way through the short story prose-piece of ‘Losing Haringey’. He manages surprisingly well, but unfortunately all we hear is him muttering as the band chime through circling lullaby chords. It doesn’t really matter though, it all sounds so delectable.


Anonymous said...

Iqbal what you doing looking at your finges, cant remember the chords?

Anonymous said...

sorry i ment frigers

Anonymous said...

no..shit, who cares?