Saturday 31 January 2009

The Rakes, The Royal

I never used to bother much with support bands because they never seemed much good but these days, almost everyone we see has something going for them, as do tonight's Official Secrets Act, a four-piece from North London.

That said I can't quite make my mind up about lead singer Tom Charge Burke, who looks a little spaced out in a Pete Doherty sort of way, oh dear, so I'm sure he'll be a star. Meanwhile his bass player looks like a refugee from Adam and the Ants with his war paint splashed across his face and his frilly shirt, as he prowls the stage with a definite sense of purpose, as do the whole band.

The band warm us up, although I feel they start slow. Yet the more they play, the more I like them and the more confident I think they get. Its basically typical indie guitar pop but clever, modestly paced and more melodic than most. They're like... oh I don't know, the Futureheads meets the Associates. Something like that. Their set is impressive and slick, something I feel they've honed over a period of time. At one point, the keyboard/second guitarist swaps places with the drummer, showing the range of skills they have.

Somebody in the bar is selling CD's for £2 but we didn't hear whose CD is it, we wonder briefly if it was the Official Secrets Act but they tell us their debut album is imminent but not out yet. Anyhow, it couldn't have been them, too darn good for £2. Somehow, I can't see the Official Secrets Act staying a secret for long.

Then its fellow London boys and headliners, The Rakes, who I've not seen live in a couple of years. After a more melodic spell with their second album 'Ten New Messages' they now seemed to have reverted to type, to the punchier sound of their more successful debut 'Capture/Release'. The Rakes briefly made it big on the back of that album but now they're back in smaller venues again.

They preview us half a dozen new tracks from their forthcoming third album 'Klang' and open with new single '1989' which on first listen doesn't seem to be the strongest of the new bunch. Then it's old favourite 'Retreat' and as frontman Alan Donohoe judders around the stage, Ian Curtis style, the crowd get livelier and livelier. It seems he went to the same dance school as Maximo's Paul Smith but obviously skipped even more lessons than Mr Smith did.

No matter, their sound is what the assembled throng came for and although possibly overdone with drums, their tunes, awash with prickly guitars, go down well. The two bouncers have real problems keeping the crowd surfing down to a level that might, on a very good day, by a blind inspector, get their Health and Safety certificate renewed. Even some of the more melodic moments, such as 'When Tom Cruise Cries', are scruffed down tonight. Then there's the speed they play out, racing through a set of, I think, 14 tracks in around 40 minutes to a room full of sweaty indie students plus a few other eccentrics like me.

So it's a short, sharp set and far too soon they are departing the stage after introducing their longest track, close on four minutes of a rousing 'The world was a mess but his hair was perfect'. Has to be long, in order to get the title in.

They return for three more, closing with a terrific 'Open Book' and finally of course 'Strasbourg'.

Saturday 24 January 2009

The View, Rescue Rooms

We're at the Rescue Rooms in the evening and we arrive just in time to get an ace spot on the balcony, as support band the Mutineers take the stage.

On their Myspace page they list a load of influences that should have rocked my boat but as band they simply don't. David Bowie, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Talking Heads, The Smiths, New Order, The La's ... Duffy wasn't among them but I reckon if Duffy fronted an indie band, they would sound like these boys. No, that's too cruel and as it's pointed out to me, such a band already exist, they're called Keane. Good point. I retract that, I'd rather listen to the Mutineers than Keane any day but even so the Mutineers still don't light my fire.

It seems to get a good performance out of the The View, you need to keep them away from the booze. Which as reports of their various gigs show, isn't easy. A friend of mine trekked over to Birmingham to see them and was appalled at the shambolic and drunken performance that they gave that night.

What we didn't realise, was that tonight's one-off show is happening as way of an apology for what happened at their gig at the Bodega Social in October. Apparently, the band had been in the pub all day where everyone had recognised the lead singer Kyle Falconer and had been offering to buy him drinks, which of course he couldn't refuse. So by the time the gig commenced, he was so drunk that he barely managed two songs before he slumped to the floor in a drunken stupor. The gig was pretty much over before it had barely started and it was left to co-writer, bassist and occasional front man Kieran Webster to do the best he could without Kyle. Afterwards the band apologised, offered refunds and arranged tonight's performance by way of recompense.

It didn't look promising at the start tonight either, when Kieran took to the stage with a bottle in each hand, although thereafter he seems to be drinking orange juice, presumably with a quadruple vodka in it. Drummer, Steve Morrison arrived already shirtless, so at least he appeared hopeful of being on stage long enough to work a sweat up.

The crowd are already ritualistically chanting 'The View, The View, The View are on fire', as Kieran dedicates the opening 'Glass Smash' to everybody who was at the original gig. Then the pints go flying in the air and we're off and running. Well apart from the fact that they seem to have problems with one of the guitars and for a while, there are almost as many road crew on the stage as there are band members.

Next up their recent single '5 Rebeccas' and then the place erupts, cue more beer hitting the sky for, the impossible to sing along to, 'Wasted Little DJs'. Kyle seems to sing 'All out of our little f****** heads' without any hint of irony.

It's totally manic down the front, we watch from the safety of the balcony and are rudely lambasted for doing so by guitarist Pete Reilly. To think they were all once Catholic schoolboys or perhaps that's the problem.

In many ways, the band are still a little shambolic, disorganised and seem to argue among themselves on a regular basis but when they do get around to playing, it's rather good. Talent they certainly have. The set consisted mainly of old favourites from the 'Hats Off To The Buskers' album with a few newbies thrown in from their upcoming and snappily titled 'Which Bitch?' album.

Kyle may not be so intoxicated tonight, although it's hard to tell with that mop of hair lapping across his face, but it's still a case of phrase books at the ready. That is if you wish to understand his thick Dundee brogue. There's plenty of nigh-on incomprehensible banter, which adds to the ambience, but it's the music we came for and tonight with a set full of jangling indie tunes, The View are everything pop should be. Fast, furious, fun and almost sober.

Both Kyle and Kieran were excellent when they took lead vocals. The pair of them are quite a contrast, they're almost a Gallagher-esk pair, particularly with one having to bail the other out occasionally. At least Kyle stays upright tonight, not so the fly on his jeans, which he seems to have problems keeping control of all night.

Then a real treat, a quick paced almost ska version of 'Up The Junction', which is excellent. Harking back to their days as a covers ban, when they apparently specialised in Squeeze and Sex Pistols covers, nice variety there.

Other highlights are a funky 'Skag Trendy' and an almost poignant 'Face For The Radio'. Then their new single 'Shock Horror' heats things up for a finale of 'Same Jeans' and then after a word from a chap, who was presumably 'the management', probably saying 'get a move on you've overran by at least 15 minutes', they close with a storming 'Superstar Tradesman'. Pete Reilly jumps in to join the crowd surfers as the crowd continue to chant 'The View are on fire'. Yep. Now boys, you can go off for a drink.