Surveying the 'zine scene
DAS WANDERLUST / RETRO SPANKEES / PERSIL / INNER CITY PIRATES, 16TH FEBRUARY 2007, CARDIFF CHAPTER ARTS CENTRE
Reincarnation - do you believe in it? Well, Inner City Pirates certainly do. As The Artists Formerly Known As My Red Cell, they signed to V2 on a five album deal, put out a debut called 13 In My 31 and toured in support of The Libertines and The White Stripes. Like most rock 'n' roll fables, it didn't last, the band suffering the double indignity of being unceremoniously dropped and having to change their name. But now they've been reborn with slightly different personnel.
So, what new form have they taken? Quite a fashionable one - all Franz beats from a mulleted drummer, synths from a chap in a neckerchief and New Edition T-shirt, skinny jeans, art school chic. You get the impression they perhaps think they're rather better than they are, though the songs about wanting friends when "you wanted enemies" and the closer about "love and affection" are up amongst the best of the night. Vocalist Jessy Allen has her feet firmly on the floor, though, receiving texts from her mum during the set. "She's downstairs in her dressing gown", she tells us. Aw, bless.
John Robert Parker Ravenscroft may no longer be with us, but his legend and legacy live on, the term "Peel favourites" still a marker of quality. Having had countless songs played on his show (including a track from their debut demo) and recorded no fewer than three Peel sessions, Amsterdam's Persil can be justifiably described as such. They can also count amongst their admirers The Wedding Present and Blondie, who've both taken them on tour, even if they're not to everyone's tastes.
The duo comprise David (guitar, synths, beats, oddly shaggy hair) and Martine (vocals, synths, beats, stripey stockings and green dress which would be worn either by a psychiatric nurse or a psychiatric patient - I can't decide which, though the way she wraps the microphone cord around her neck suggests the latter). Their mission appears to be to create a kind of mutant robotic replica of fanzine-friendly indiepop, perhaps best exemplified by 'Happy', the lead track from their 2005 EP Tune-Up, and 'Light Up My Life', from last year's second full LP Comfort Noise.
At times the intricacies of their songs are lost in the mix, and there's a glitch with the projections which leaves the message "This CD is dirty" displayed on the screen for some time, none of us quite knowing if this is deliberate. But for me Persil are more than all white in the end (arf). And, what's more, I have it on good authority that they're the perfect houseguests.
From Peel favourites to Pryke favourites. And as soon as The Retro Spankees are underway, it's not hard to see why Birmingham's foremost cultural gourmand is such a fan.
Regular gig comrades of Misty's Big Adventure, Andy's other love, they play what they themselves describe as "playschool rock 'n' roll", making an absurdly hyperactive racket garnished with lots of yelping. The drummer has a massive grin. The bassist is wearing a tabard and cat ears. One of the two guitarists - who is so pencil-thin that his clothes are literally hanging off him - has his keyboard set up on an ironing board and surrounded by cuddly toys. Yes, The Retro Spankees are a lot of fun.
All of which means that Plan B endorsed headliners Das Wanderlust come over as something as an anti-climax. Don't get me wrong: there's plenty to admire about the self-styled "wrong-pop" duo of Laura Simmons and Andy Elliott (tonight bolstered by the very sizeable presence of a third member on bass and stand-up drums), not least the incident-free run through genius single 'The Orange Shop'.
But more often than not their set is very definitely not incident-free.
The key problem is the drum machine. Let's draw a line in the sand: fucking up the opening of a song once or twice is just about permissible (and endearing) under the Code of Punk Rock Amateurishness - but to do so four or five times is downright patience-testing. That same sloppiness rears its ugly head again later in the set and, while they can laugh about how much it's cost to get in to witness this shambles (even though Peppermint Patti gigs do certainly represent good value, at £6 for four bands), it's less of a joke for those of us watching. Don't remind us, and we'll be more likely to be forget and forgive.
"If you have no ears and thought that was good, there are some CDs over there". Hmm. Das Wanderlust deserve a second hearing, but, of tonight's bands, it's Persil who claim my £2 for a copy of Tune-Up.