DARTZ! / THE NEW 1920 / MAY CONTAIN NUTS, 13TH FEBRUARY 2007, CARDIFF BARFLY
Dear oh dear. To have booked May Contain Nuts to open tonight's bill, either the promoter hasn't got a clue, or they've got a very warped sense of humour.
No doubt MCN are good at what they do - but what they do is fucking rubbish. As you might have surmised from the name, the foursome clearly believe that NOFX and Sum 41 are beacons of musical genius and that intellectualism is, like, dumb. The height of their wit is to name a song about Osama Bin Laden 'Caveman', and their raison d'etre seems to be find as many variations on the Offspring-esque "WHOA WHOA" backing vocals as possible. Their album Zombies And Missiles ... AND FIRE!!! is available at the back, we are informed, but no stampede is forthcoming.
None of this matters, though, because, as they say themselves, "talent is overrated"...
The appearance of the next band rapidly sucks people away from the bar and out of the shadows into the void in front of the stage. The New 1920 (no 's' on the end, though I keep wanting to add one) are used to bigger stages than this, having played four dates on Lostprophets' November tour of the UK, and vocalist Colin Francies and drummer Nathan Phillips both used to be in local favourites Douglas.
As a frontman, Francies is a natural. He gives it his all, kicking off some of the songs with short keyboard lines before leaping off the stage, whirling the microphone around like The Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler and hanging from the rigging (which is thankfully firmly attached to the low ceiling).
And yet musically they're not really worth working up a sweat over. With both the music itself and song titles like 'I'm Staying Swiss On This' and 'This Isn't Over, Not By A Long Shot', it's clear we're firmly in Fall Out Boy territory i.e. poppy emo-lite that registers no impression on me. Such is the current climate, though, that with the addition of a couple of big-chorused singles to their arsenal their rise could be stratospheric.
It's ironic that the North East, for so long synonymous in musical terms with utter shite, is currently turning out quality band after quality band just as the region's status as a hotbed of footballing talent is coming into question. Latest off the production line that, in the space of just a couple of years, has given us The Futureheads, Maximo Park and Field Music, are DARTZ!.
Hailing from Middlesbrough, the soberly and smartly dressed threesome exhibit a familiar fascination with arty punk and new wave - but, like recent touring partners Hot Club de Paris, they bring additional influences to the table, drawing inspiration from the more eccentric fringes of the US indiepop spectrum (including defunct post-punkers Q And Not U and SWSL favourites The Dismemberment Plan) as well as from the predominantly American tradition rather negatively labelled math-rock.
And it's the maths supply teacher look they're rocking, too. It's certainly not hard to imagine ruler-twanged bits of rubber raining down on bassist / vocalist William Anderson while he struggles to explain the basics of trigonometry to a bunch of unruly 14-year-olds. But when he takes to the stage, off come the glasses (set neatly atop the amp) and the sandy-coloured jumper too. Together with guitarist Henry Carden and drummer / vocalist Philip Maughan, he clearly means business.
What follows is a smart slap around the chops, in the best possible way. Undeterred by the flat midweek crowd and ongoing technical difficulties with the mics (c'mon Barfly, sort it out!), they take the opportunity to showcase the majority of debut LP This Is My Ship, released the day before. Splendid singles 'St Petersburg' and 'Once Twice Again!' are pop-punk with more than half a brain, while most of the other songs jerk and twitch their way easily into my affections. 'Prego Triangolos' in particular is superb, boasting just the sort of shouted chant whose meaning remains enigmatic however many times it replays itself in your head: "You have three sides, but you're not a triangle / You have three sides, but you are a square!". And we're back to the trigonometry...
Suffice to say, then, that with DARTZ! it all adds up - and that that North-Eastern production line shows no signs of letting up.