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'.

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