Been caught stealing
LAZARUS CLAMP / THE SPENCER MCGARRY SEASON / PALACE MUSIC, 21ST AUGUST 2008, OXFORD WHEATSHEAF
Either Will Oldham's licenced the name Palace Music as a franchise or the band from Oxford are a cheeky bunch of plagiarists. Counting among their number members of local folk-shanty types Stornoway (one of whom may or may not be the pseudonymic genius Evan Essence), this Palace Music deal in quirky indie which, though intermittently impressive with the likes of 'Tetanus Face' and their tribute to the city's newest eaterie 'Yo Sushi', is largely all too lightweight and unmemorable. Songs for paupers rather than princes.
The Spencer McGarry Season are next up, testament to the evident appreciation the night's promoters Swiss Concrete have of Cardiff's considerable musical bounty - their last act, I think, was to bring The School before a largely non-existent audience. In truth, interest tails off dramatically tonight once Palace Music exit too, the majority of the audience taking the fact that they don't recognise any of the faces on stage as an excuse for a trip to the bar or, worse, for the formation of a seated circle group cluster. More fool them for ignoring the Season's shiny smiley-faced new wave pop. It's only by paying close attention to the threesome that I belatedly realise Stephen 'Sweet Baboo' Black is the band's regular bassist, for a start.
I'm not 100% convinced by new single 'A Paler Shade Of Wit', released through their own label Businessman Records, and it's a source of some disappointment that their contribution to the Twisted By Design compilation This Town Ain't Big Enough For The 22 Of Us, 'The Unfilmable Life & Life Of...', has been dropped from the set - but Jim O'Rourke's 'Therefore I Am' is an excellent choice of cover and 'When Stupids Come To Town', the strutting Talking Heads influenced funk closer, is a triumph. Little wonder that they'll be supporting The Week That Was, a side project of fellow pop experimentalists Field Music, in Cardiff soon.
So, Palace Music nicked their name and The Spencer McGarry Season nicked a song - what have Londoners Lazarus Clamp half-inched? Nothing specific, as it turns out - though they do have a decent song about a burglary. Through no fault of their own (it has to be said) they're already on a hiding to nothing, having been billed in Nightshift as a lipsmackingly tasty yet improbable collision between Slint and Sparklehorse. And so it proves - generally speaking, there's little cohesion, direction or individual identity on display. When the violinist leaves the stage and they suddenly and unexpectedly morph into an intensely focused Shellac, I'm moved to contemplate a re-evaluation (individual identity point aside). Sod's law, then, that it's their sign-off.