Sunday, 27 February 2011

Generic Poor Review #1

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

On Friday night I was assaulted in Covent Garden. Head-butted in the face, I was. Blood all over the place. And it was almost the low point of the weekend. But then I went to the pub this evening and saw a band so poor that I am not going to name them, or the pub. Instead, I’m going to generically rant about them for your reading pleasure.

It started poorly. As the band maneuvered their instruments onto the small stage, the signs of doom were all about. The trousers were genital-crushingly tight, the t-shirts achingly fashionable, the hair floppy on one side and long on the other. It seemed like a Spotters’ Guide to modern indie cliché. But something was wrong with this perfect picture: tans. This sort of band should look as though they are slightly unhealthy; as though they have been living off beans and deathly kebabs for the previous three months. They should not look as though they have recently returned from The Seychelles. These are almost definitely the Common People to whom Jarvis was referring. Nor should their drummer be wearing a designer shirt and looking a touch too much like Michael Hutchence for comfort.

So, before the first note had been struck, I had decided I hated this lot. I knew they would be rubbish, and they did not disappoint.

The ukelele is an instrument that can, in professional terms, “go either way”. It should not, for example, constitute the entire melody line of your Shoreditch-friendly indie band. Nor should it be played with accompanying head banging. Just close your eyes and imagine how stupid that looks. See?

Beyond this, there’s a singer for whom the concept of a consonant is clearly a foreign and slightly suspicious one. Having heard more than one Cure record (I don’t know this, but I’d put my next wage packet on it), he bleats away with a voice that leaves myself and my housemate struggling to maintain straight faces and continence. In the entire set, I heard one discernible lyric, no kidding. There is occasional falsetto because, you know, that’s in right now.

Then comes the best bit: a song featuring the triangle. It is, let’s face it, the instrument you give the utterly rubbish kid in primary school music class. The reason for this is that it takes a very special kind of talent to fuck it up. Needless to say, these guys manage it. The “instrument” is frequently mishit and sometimes even missed. It’s hilarious to watch and we finally give up trying not to laugh when he throws aside the beater (as Wikipedia tells me it’s called) in fury. He resorts instead to saying “Shup” into the microphone instead.

Eventually the set draws to a close, to decidedly scant applause. I feel that here, in this small upstairs room, we have crossed an event horizon. The point where indie music gained it’s own Spinal Tap. It’s all been headed that way for a little while, let’s face it. In this modern world where social media has effectively removed several billion layers of quality control, we may have brought this on ourselves. These guys are so laughably generic that it matters not one jot that I have not given you their name. One day soon they will undoubtedly feature in the new bands section of the music tabloids. Take a look, they could be there already...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Folkadot @ Green Note, Camden - 2nd February 2011

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

I am coming before you to extol the virtues of London’s best folk venue. If you have not yet had the pleasure of Green Note, I have only one word for you: go. The restaurant out front leads you through to a little venue at the back, littered with candle-lit tables and flanked by bare brick walls. It’s what my mind thinks the cafés in 1960s Greenwich Village were like. A tiny stage at one end is lit just enough to create atmosphere, and a bar at the other end serves a good selection of just about everything. The food is out of this world and everyone is friendly beyond description.

Tonight is a monthly night put on by Unstable Promotions and features three acts from in and around London. Before we start though, credit and massive props to Jonny Berliner, who comperes and warms the crowd up with a couple of folk songs about science. His calypso tribute to the marvels of DNA has to be heard to be believed.

First up tonight is Oka Vanga , last heard of on this site in 2009. Before the set, I talk to Angie about why they seem to have an aversion to eating before they go on stage. “Well,” she deadpans “If you were being chased by a bear, you wouldn’t stop to have a pitta, would you?”

That said, there’s no sign of any nerves at all in their performance tonight. The eighteen months since their last review have seen the duo record an album and play a number of folk festivals across the country. Their performance has grown and changed, and the synergy of their playing styles is as stunning as ever. It would be impossible to attribute them to any one genre (unless frantic-vocal-free-speed-metal-folk is a genre in the MySpace generation) but their performance is as intoxicating and breathtaking as ever. The introduction of some slide guitar adds a new dimension to what remains one of the most watchable and compelling live acts you’ll see this year.

Following them is a change down a gear for solo singer-songwriter (no, it’s not a dirty word, it used to mean something) Pepe Belmonte . Pepe is Irish by birth and has been on the scene in various guises for some time now. Tonight his collection of songs are touching and beautifully constructed, and his voice is breathy and perfect for the tracks. His songs are reflective and full of intriguing characters, and his charm and banter have the audience eating from the palm of his hand. I am convinced that we will not be the only ones charmed by his songs and persona in 2011, particularly not with the release of his debut album just around the corner.

Finally, there’s Matthew Neel , who is clearly an old hand at this. Well known to many of the crowd, he appears tonight with a band, who win their first accolade by somehow defying the laws of physics to all fit on the stage without falling over each other. Once there, they proceed to entertain the massed ranks with a clutch of songs penned by Neel and which can, on occasion, conjure up the softer moments of Ryan Adams or Jeff Tweedy. The band give extra oomph to the songs and when the electric guitar comes out (to the predictable yet hil-ari-ous cries of “Judas”), the set starts to swing as Clapton-style licks give the songs a kick. That being so, standout track We Will Be Dreaming is performed solo as the set closer after the happy crowd request an encore.

So in summary then, see these bands and attend this venue. You won’t regret either of these decisions.