Monday, 15 June 2009

Crystal Stilts / The Bats / Comet Gain – 22 May 2009, ICA

Ian WatsON is DJing. He plays stuff like The Shop Assistants, Pocketbooks, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, and, ooh! ‘Psycho’ by The Sonics. Good. I like the ICA despite the alleged dodgy sound. Being in the auditorium is like being a mouse in a black shoe-box. Above us, spread out across a large stage replete with flashy lights and lawks! dry ice, it is The Rolling Stones! no it’s Comet Gain!! It’s kind of eye-goggling seeing them in such ‘professional’ environs. As Rachel says (waving her ‘S&M’ black leather maracas) ‘We are contemporary art’

She’s right. When they’re good Comet Gain are the best, the only pop grupe. Tonight they’re pretty good: Say Yes, Love Without Lies, Why I Try To Look So Bad. They are The Velvet Underground doing ‘What Goes On’ and Love doing ‘Seven And Seven Is’.

Kaye’s tee-shirt has fluffy, flouncy sleeves that look like angel wings. She’s a sublime pop kid. David keeps his jokes to himself, but still cackles openly at the amusements inside his head. He tells us about how Comet Gain went to America and played with Crystal Stilts who had better hair, but Comet Gain had better jokes and were better at drinking. Near the end of an ecstatic pop thrills set, Jon Slade sidles off backstage. He reappears in order to, er, jump offstage and join Helen Shrag in the audience.

The Bats play a short, sweet sunshine set before annoyingly rushing off to play another set in a pub right near our flat, whilst we’re still back in the ICA. The Bats, who I never really listened to in olden times, are fab. Like Mamas and Papas* sliced through with the darkness of good eighties no wave. Darkly shimmering guitars, cosy jangle with an icy bite. And one of their guitarists is a woman - SHOCK!

Crystal Stilts seem a tad lacklustre and complain about the sound all night – unable to hit the right peak of reverb. Frankie is playing boring old sitting down drums, wot a swizz! She does have a teeny tambourine taped to the tom though. With singer Brad not being one for cheery chats with the crowd and guitarist JB skulking by his amp, breaking strings and not really being much of a presence, organist Kyle (also to be seen larking in The Ladybug Transistor) takes over proceedings, both sonically as rockingly mournful notes ripple through the songs, and in communing with the crowd.

Ooh, he’s a card, telling us about playing in Italy where "they didn’t understand a word", and offering his admittedly excellent tee-shirt (a dog saying "Kevin") for sale at the bargainous price of £80. Feck offers the quids. The price rises to £100. Feck heckles ‘Wankers’. Kyle respondes ‘Sexy wankers’ and the whole shebang ends with in a smash hit pop blur.

* Did you see that BBC 4 ‘documentary about The Mamas and Papas? Gah! ‘twas a ridiculous whitewash that probably broke all kinds of torture laws by playing ‘California Dreamin’ over and over and OVER. There was no mention of the crazy, messed up marriages/affairs/kicking out of Michelle Phillips/drug frenzies etc.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart / Shrag / Tender Trap, 10 June 2009 - Cargo

Wake up to find odd little bruises up and down my arms. Hmm, they must be from people’s pokey elbows in last night’s middle-aged mosh-pit. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are back!!! Again. Despite tube strikes, Cargo is crammed and there is a determination amongst the regular indie-pop massive to go mentalz and have top fuzzpop fun. So we do. I’m not sure how great a show the Pains play tonight (surely they must be feeling a little jaded by now?) I’m too busy laughing hysterically and jumping up and down in a ridiculous scrum at the front. We may be knocking on (as Marianthi says, the nearer you are to the front, the older the crowd is), but hey, we can still kick it like nutjobs. We chant out the words (tuneful!), do the ‘ooh, ooh, ooh’ bits in ‘Come Saturday’, punch the air to ‘Everything With You’, and those of us with hair shake our barnets in deep appreciation of the glorious buzzing tunes. I especially enjoy ‘The Tenure Itch’ tonight and ‘Young Adult Friction’ is pretty much a religious experience. There’s even a brand spanking new song, ‘Higher Than The Stars’ jangling wistfully, Kip's voice lollopingly lilting. As the set closes with a big, fat, thumpy ‘Gentle Sons’ we all agree a fine time has been had indeed, much to the disdain of the sour faced youth, who prefer not to dance.

Earlier on, Tender Trap play a set chocka with new tunes, sounding slightly ramshackle, but sparky, and surprisingly fearsome thanks to Katrina Dixon's big boomy stand-up drumming that boots it all along (as Amelia says 'stand up drummers are it'). Amelia, shaking a tambourine throughout, is in good voice - clear and bell-like, keeping the tunes in check. She is also wearing an excellent ensemble – a dress with slightly–delic black swirls, turquoise tights and ankle boots, sort of indie-kid grows up, but not too much.

We get two ‘hits’. The lovely see-sawing ‘Oh Katrina’ and ‘Talking Backwards’. Amelia announces the next song is called ‘Suddenly’. My brain goes “Suddenleeeee, life has new meaning etc…argh! shut up!!” Amelia goes, “The title makes everyone think of Lionel Ritchie”. She’s right, it does. How awful! But the song’s good, so we’ll let her off. Oh, I'll just fill in the end of this line, or those last two words look odd. There.

Regular gigster, John M. in his rightful position
at the front of the crowd is tonight sporting a Damned tee-shirt which inspires an excellent anecdote from Amelia about going to see The Damned years ago. She had to wear the same clothes to school the next day, which would have been fine, except an old man got onstage and wee-ed on her head! Not to worry though, nothing like that will happen tonight, even though they’re ending the set with their ‘punk rock’ song.

Throughout Tender Trap’s set, Helen of Shrag has been doing happy stampy dances at the front. Now she gets onstage to do more stampy dancing with Shrag, (whilst singing, obvs.) and Amelia does reciprocal dancing from the audience. Drummer Leigh-Ann has a gammy foot, so props herself up with crutches to add singing bits, whilst a stand-in friend drummer, er, drums. Shrag are great, smashing their way through an assortment of new songs and excellently crunchy renditions of ‘Long Term Monster’ and ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’. They are urgent and exciting and vital and a bit odd. Good work all round.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Over And Over - The Legends (Labrador Records)

‘Seconds Away’ sounds like The Acid House Kings being played on a badly tuned workshop radio whilst someone embarks on some serious angle-grinding. It is therefore FAB! Candy coated perfect pop embedded in ferocious spitty sparks. This is The Legends, and this isn’t just any old Swedey indie-pop to add to the (rather large) pile, ‘cos The Legends are mostly Johan Angergard. Johan’s other bands include Club 8 and pop, um, legends The Acid House Kings. He knows what he’s doing does Johan, hence this album of prism perfect, crystalline pop. Do you love elegant, can’t-see-the-joins, downy-soft, everso slightly yearning Swedish indie-pop? Yes? Me too. Do you ADORE fearsome fuzz ‘n’ feedback and dark mutterings over stand-up drumbeats? I know, isn’t it great?! This is what The Legends have got for you, an album that basically vacillates between the two. It’s not new. But it is fabulously POP!

Album opener, ‘You Won’ is deliciously doomy 80s-esque gloom pop, the sort that The Editors et al have made so annoying, The Legends manage a lightness of touch that hints at early Talk Talk - dark and urgent. ‘Monday To Saturday’ trips over the Acid House Kings’ dew-sparkling lawns as Club 8 lady Karolina Komstedt duets sweetly with Angergard over echoey finger-clicks. The pain killers and afternoon sunlight furze of ‘Heartbeats’ recalls a more numb, less devastated Radio Dept. (whatever happened to..?) ‘Dancefloor’ goes doolally bubblegum, twisting and shouting over a hissy backbeat. ‘Something Strange Will Happen’ is edgily motorik but just can’t help but ripple into a sunshine smile here and there.

This album takes my faves from the olden days and makes them over, all sparkly and fresh like newly fallen snow. Inevitably ( I was a teenage Chain-head) it’s the feedback laced pitch-perfect Reidisms that I (Douglas) hart the most here, the squealing, shredding, squalling ‘Recife’, the blood-thumping rumble of ‘Over And Over’ being Frankenstein-stitched onto some ‘Psychocandy’ offcuts. ‘Always The Same’ is wonderful - The Cardigans mashed up with The Jesus And Mary Chain. Heart-explodingly good pop covered in a thick lacquer of fuzz, the tune EXACTLY The JAMC’s ‘Inside Me’ complete with rumbly bass. Hurrah! Then, to end…My Bloody Valentine. ‘Touch’ is ‘Nothing Much To Lose’ scrubbed up all lovely for its first day at big school. Bless.