Sunday, July 06, 2008

Teach to their own


Sod's law that the night a friend's visiting and I'm keen to show off how vibrant and thriving gig culture in the latest place SWSL has laid its hat is by paying my first visit to one of the city's most cultish venues, the place is practically deserted.

According to The Beautiful South's Paul Heaton, The Puncture Repair Kit are "the best thing to come out of Cambridge since homosexuality" - but then he's responsible for 'Perfect 10', so don't let that sway you. Others have apparently been nice enough to compare them to the likes of The Delgados, thus proving there is such a thing as being too nice. Xylophone, violin, fey vocals about books, military uniform worn by someone who looks as though he couldn't fight his way out of a damp paper bag, even if armed with a bayonet and hand grenade - and all thrown together to sound rather less like a glorious mess (see: Campesinos!, Los) and rather more like the sort of mess you might be disgruntled to find on the sole of your shoe.

Better is the second act of this Swiss Concrete hosted night, Flicklisten aka Jim Nicherelt, an American who's come to call Oxford home. Even then, though, it takes some time - and accompaniment on a curious scissor-shaped violin (the indie-folk equivalent of a flying V guitar, perhaps?) - for his songs to start to make sense, what initially seems muddy and mumbled coming to sound subtle and measured. There's not much in the way of visual stimulation, either, though he does at least have a nice line in between-song patter.

Both could learn an awful lot from recent Elefant signatories The School. (Note Stern word to self: that's the last pun you're allowed...) Yes, OK, so they're friends of friends from Cardiff and, stood here next to their biggest fan in my Spillers T-shirt, I'm here in some kind of cheerleading capacity. But it's really not so long ago that the very thought of them would have had me spluttering on my pint. Vintage dresses? Pastel pink 7" singles? Stomach-churningly cutesy pop? Here be twee! Pass the Uzi!

So it's to the considerable credit of ex Loves member and Loose promoter Liz and her apparently ever-changing band (including a guitarist whose T-shirt proclaims "I listen to bands that don't even exist yet") that I don't spend the duration of their set chewing on my fists in the hope that Napalm Death and Fuck Buttons might be going to put in a surprise joint headline appearance. That's thanks largely to their homing in on my Achilles heel and raising the Spector of 60s girl groups that haunts the likes of The Jesus & Mary Chain. Live it doesn't all come off (beats are missed and embarrassed glances are smilingly exchanged throughout), but there's still an awful lot to admire and in 'Let It Slip' they've got an absolute gem of a single.

Just a shame, then, that the only people dancing are The Puncture Repair Kit and assorted girlfriends and friends. Talk about teaching to the converted. Ah...

Ken's review on Parallax View

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