Friday, November 30, 2007

Spirit medium


So, this is how it's going to be, is it? A second trip to the Academy and the same result - I arrive shortly after 8.15pm to catch the first support band's last two songs.

Merseyside's Man From Michael, aside from having a dreadful name, deal in melodic pop-rock that they'd probably like to think sounds like Grandaddy but that actually falls far short, something no amount of vocal woos can change. What else to say? Well, the guitarist sports a most impressive moustache, while the lead singer has a passing resemblance to Julian Rhind-Tutt (you know, the shaggy-haired posh one off of 'Green Wing' and the Barclaycard adverts).

It's probably fair to say that Creepy Morons are best experienced in a small room on a Friday night when the beer's been flowing freely, rather than in a soulless corporate club on a freezing cold Monday in front of the sort of so-polite-it's-uptight crowd bands playing in Oxford routinely seem to have to suffer. It's not that blistering gutter-punk blues duos like this are an alien concept here - after all, it's not so long ago that the city of dreaming spires spawned Winnebago Deal.

Creepy Morons' music is so primeval it's still covered in a slick of slime and hasn't yet learned how to wash. Never mind that the same drum beat and riffs appear to be constantly recycled - the impact isn't ever lost, and the thwack of new single 'Piece Of Mind' is a clip around the ear with a brick. What's perhaps most unsettling, though, on a night of lookalikes, is my realisation of the extent to which guitarist Nick resembles an extremely unelegantly wasted Johnny Borrell.

After a prolonged intermission made bearable only by 'Chinese Rocks' by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers featuring on the DJ's looped CD and the sight of the roadie who clearly thought he should dress like he's in the band (military chic waistcoat, shirt, flat hat, calf-high boots), headliners The Duke Spirit take to the stage. Continuing the lookalikes theme, we have a generically gorgeous blonde-haired 60s film star (singer Liela Moss, possessor of the most hand-held percussive instruments I've ever seen), the tousle-haired brothers Reid circa 1986 and the Darklands album (guitarist Dan Higgins and drummer Olly Betts) and Ronnie O'Sullivan if he steered clear of the pies for a while (guitarist Luke Ford). And bearded bassist Toby Butler.

The parallels between the quintet before me and the last band I saw headlining at the Zodiac, Sons & Daughters, are striking. Despite having worked with producer Chris Goss of Masters Of Reality (and sometime Queens Of The Stone Age member) for recent EP Ex-Voto, of which the excellent 'Lassoo' is the pick, most of the material from forthcoming second album Neptune showcased tonight suggests a band collectively taking files to the rough edges that attracted me in the first place. 'The Step And The Walk', for instance, lollops along with a poppy gait, while the piano-led 'My Sunken Treasure' reaches for a chorus that is simultaneously anthemic and Strokes-esque. A bit harsh, perhaps, but these days it seems to be less Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and more Black On-The-Straight-And-Narrow Scooter Club.

Not that the scratchier 'Send A Little Love Token' grabs me more; of all the new songs, ballad 'Souvenir' and the slow-burning mid-set beast called (I think) 'A Ship Was Built To Last' are the most impressive, but nevertheless pale in comparison to the likes of the shimmering majesty of 'Hello To The Floor' from first LP Cuts Across The Land. 'Red Weather', meanwhile, despite being deposed from its customary place at the conclusion of the set, still manages to upstage 'Love Is An Unfamiliar Name' - the band failing to heed the cardinal rule that wig-outs should be left until last unless you want to create a sense of anti-climax.

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