Monday, 7 March 2016

'86 in '16

If The June Brides really were looking forward to getting married in the flaming month it'd probably end up pissing down on their wedding day. They haven't enjoyed the best of luck in their on-off career. Not signing to the fledgling Creation label because it would've been too obvious and turning down an appearance on the influential (to a certain demographic) C86 cassette given away free with the NME thirty years ago.

It's a pity because they deserved more. Having Oxford Street's 100 Club three quarters full 31 years after their only album came out, and that was a mini one, is fairly impressive. Lots of bands from the same time would struggle and some of their posters are on the stairs as you descend into the basement for an evening of pints in plastic glasses, bogs with no locks on the doors, and men (and they are mostly men) of a certain age.

But for an act that managed to bridge the Postcard sound of Orange Juice and The Go-Betweens with later jangly bands like The Bodines and Mighty Mighty whilst marrying a nascent chamber pop element to the songwriting chops of a Roddy Frame or David Gedge it seems like a dollar short and a day late.

The youngest people in the room by some margin are Brighton quartet Clipper. Looks wise they're ticking some fairly standard indie boxes. The drummer, who according to their Facebook page calls himself The Edge and can look forward to a catch up with U2's lawyers if they ever get famous, sports a textbook stripey t-shirt. Sensible shoes and checked shirts abound and singer Noah Bisseker sports the sort of curtain hairstyle not seen since Ian Walker was between the sticks for Tottenham. The songs are punchy enough and there's enough going on to suggest that with time and confidence they can move away from supporting blokes the age of their dads.

The Wolfhounds may look like a pub darts team but there's no fat on the old tunes whatsoever. They've been back together for over a decade now so it'd be understandable, if less forgivable, if interest had waned. The go-faster stripe on Dave Callahan's guitar seems to act as a reminder to him to never let the pace slip. Which they don't. Anti-Midas Touch, the nearest thing they had to a hit and, alas, something Callahan seems to be suffering technically, even sees an outbreak of dancing. Well, two men. Lots of head nodding though. Both in confirmation and enjoyment. They are rather good.

While we're not being entirely complimentary about what bands look like The June Brides consist of Roger Lloyd-Pack in an ITV drama about a man living on a canal boat, a nervous geography teacher, Kevin Rowland in the clothes he uses to take the bins out, and a retired East End gangster who'd rather be floating on a lilo sipping a pina colada in the Costa del Sol.

None of which provides any clue as to how they sound. Which, initially, is not good. Problems with both the viola and the trumpet mean the whole aforementioned chamber music thing doesn't really come through during the first couple of songs including the excellent The Instrumental. It's fixed pretty speedily but it takes the band a few minutes to get their mojo back. Phil Wilson's sweet voice and pensive lyrics are a strange fit but a beguiling one. Every Conversation sees a singalong. This Town puts a worm in the ear that's still there two days later. In The Rain is the rediscovered gem of the night and Heard You Whisper and Sick, Tired And Drunk bring memories of years spent in teenage bedrooms flooding back. Which is a good thing. Occasionally.

It was more low-key triumph than resounding success but that was always on the cards and it'd seem a little harsh to suggest a gig by two bands from the so-called shambling scene was a bit shambolic even if it was. A fun evening. Thanks to Darren and Cheryl for joining me.

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