Sunday, 16 March 2008

The School / Pocketbooks / The Sunny Street / The Give It Ups -12 March 2008, Buffalo Bar

Here we are down the Buffalo Bar again shimmying in an idle indie breeze, but in a shock move we’re not at a Fortuna Pop! night. We’ve broken our F Pop! only rule and ventured into Goonite territory for a little light midweek pop fun (although Sean FP! is in attendance, so the world hasn’t spun that far off its axis).

First up are the shockingly schmindie The Give It Ups – some might say the band are asking for it with that name, but some would be being needlessly cruel and not paying attention to the cheery pop manoeuvres occurring in front of them. It would be a cold-hearted soul indeed who couldn’t find some joy in the foolishly wistful ‘Be My Cat’. The very silly ‘I Wanna Be Metal’ and the fairly silly ‘Dinosaur Song’. It’s all very BMX Bandits ramshackle. This is my favourite kind of ramshackle – as captured on the BMXer's splendid ‘E102’ E.P. (sample: “Stop, stop stop something’s went wrong!’) During the final song the glockenspiel falls off its stand and the wee glockenspiel man has to scrabble around on the floor for it. He gets it set up again, only for it to tumble back down. All this is hilarious and brilliantly, pathetically indie. I choose to view the incident as an ironic pastiche of the fumbling, apologetic world of twee indie-pop - a brilliant piece of performance art.

We precariously surf the ridiculous/sublime interface between The Give It Ups and next band up The Sunny Street - a cool electro pop sorbet between tonight’s sugar sweet indie pop courses. With elegant Gallic nonchalance they describe themselves as a ‘London-based French popduo founded on a boring day… The songs are mostly about love.’

The band consists of Remi from Electrophonvintage on wistfully strummed guitar playing to a backing track emanating from a tiny i-Pod lying at his feet - we keep worrying he's going to stand on it. He's accompanied by downy, sugar-spun vocals from Delphine who's looking elegant in a navy dress and heels, like she’s just nipped out from taking high tea at the Waldorf. Their music sounds like the best of Labrador records, taking in both The Radio Dept’s daydream ennui (on 'Greasy Crisps' - an unlikely title for this achily delicate wisp of a song) and The Acid House King’s Springtime sweetness ('Comedians'). In fact The Sunny Street’s album can be found on fellow Swedish label beginning with ‘La…’, Lavender. The Sunny Street are today’s most delightful discovery. Even their cover of the cheesy old Haddaway dance track ‘What Is Love?’ sounds waifishly touching.

Twinkly ivory-tickling heralds the arrival of Pocketbooks newly released single ‘Waking Up’ and grey skies turn blue. The last time I saw Pocketbooks was in September 2006 (I’ve been busy, okay?) and cripes, they’ve come a long way baby. They’re knocking out perfectly-formed indie pop songs left, right and centre, dizzying us with their dash.

Belle and Sebastian are the obvious reference point here – sprightly, heart-burst pop backed with fearsome song-writing skillz. Fab. Like B&S, there are skinny white Northern Soul bits just discernable in Pocketbooks’ sound; certain drumbeats and rhythms, piano sounds and handclaps make me hear ghost versions of the songs scooting off across the dance-floor garnering a brass section and boys doing talc-fuelled spins as they go.

Emma’s ice-cream vocals tumble around Andy’s counter-point voice and we revel in the wordy, wry kitchen sink lyrics about lost Oyster Cards (oh little blue card you truely are a cultural reference point for our times), night buses and library cards, although professionally I absolutely cannot condone the line ‘I’ll let you use my library card’. ‘Cross The Line’ sees some classic boy/girl vocal action with Emma and Andy cutely trading waspish remarks. The sweetly exasperated-sounding ‘Don’t Stop’ comes complete with lyrical Grange Hill metaphysics ‘I’m lost inside a flippin’ vortex’.
Slathered over the top of Andy and Emma’s keyboard lines is Ian’s fantastically spangly guitar which makes you think "Sea Urchins! Yeah!" and jangles so ferociously that it threatens to detach itself from the rest of the band and overwhelm the whole of Highbury in a Jim Beattie-esque sonic tidal wave. Its all mighty exhilarating pop kids.

Finally it's The School and their syllabus of swinging sunburst pop. They’ve got a brand new drummer, and leader Liz is feeling sleepy, but it doesn’t really show as they rattle through a set that sounds like it’s constructed from pop classics from a parallel universe. ‘Shoulder’ will have you convinced it’s a cover such is the perfection of its shoo be doo girl group northern soul swirl. Liz’s panda-eyed girl next door voice has the tiniest little crack in it giving it an endearing warmth and vulnerability. There’s chirpy new single ‘Valentine’ (an untimely release on pink vinyl) and the galloping swoon of ‘Let It Slip’ and ‘Can You Feel It’. My favourite is still the anomalous ‘Sunshine’ a great big pop spectacle that sounds like a lysergically demented school orchestra and the exception to The School’s rule of girl-group cute-pop.

1 comment:

The said...

Hi there. I'm Carys from The Give It Ups and wanted to thank you for an extremely generous (as well as well-written) review of our over-characteristicly shambolic gig at the Buffalo Bar.

I was actually wondering if we could link to it from the MySpace? - I thought it was a very fair description of what to expect from us.

Ta x