Made in Britain
So, this is the hope for the local music scene being touted around the message boards and school websites is it? Our raw untapped talent, the stars of not tomorrow, but maybe the day after that? The bands that will in time smash The Stable like stallions on angel dust and stick it to ‘the man’? Hmm.
At the very least, you have to admire their determination to draw a crowd. It’s one thing to be boldly persistent in letting people know that you mean business, but quite another to have to draw upon every person you know, including Mum, Dad, Uncles, Aunties, neighbours and basically anyone who can be persuaded to part with a fiver. Still, although we can make fun of them pretending to be popular, it has to be respected that they’ve got a decent sized crowd and among other things it’s a chance to see whether Made In Britain (boys, please note the spelling of ‘Britain’) are worth their self-imposed hype.
Maybe not yet, but in about 10 years time, the members of MIB will be sat at their office desks wearing smart suits (well, at least the members that are literate) and trying to pretend that this embarrassing portion of their lives never actually happened. A less convincing bunch of poseurs is hard to imagine, and it’s nothing to do with MIB’s adamant insistence that they’re “Not fuckin’ nazis” despite their imagery, it’s that they’re quite obviously a bunch of adolescents playing at being rebels. Spoilt children trying desperately to be interesting because they’re not clever enough to make an impact on ‘the system’ with their brains, so have to convince their Mummies and Daddies how hardcore they are in their beliefs by dressing as punkily as possible and using the half-understood rants of others to rage against the corporate machine (even though Daddy’s corporate machine probably paid for their instruments). Sniff…sniff…anyone smell bullshit?
Having seemingly expanded their line up to include two frontmen, lets call one ‘Midget Davy Jones In A Suit’ and the other ‘Pale Purple-Headed Bog-Brush In An Oxfam Blazer’, MIB at least are loud and raucous in their attempts at crass Oi-dom. With a traditional 1-2-3-4 there’s huge amounts of fast and bulbous instrument thrashing going on, echoing the likes of the UK Subs, Peter & The Test Tube Babies, even the mighty League on occasions, but more specifically, their sound is somewhere between the 4-Skins and The Gonads. Ironic really, because they come across as cocks. They’re capable of melody though, which goes in their favour, but its still not enough as they’re too lazy to see any musical ideas through, preferring to fuck around in vulgar noise and incoherence because it’s easier to hide their inadequacies in. Quite depressing really.
“Lyricless” is a surprising departure, like a bass-heavy Mournblade, edging towards racy and spacey punk widdling, but ending pointlessly just as it was starting to get tolerable. Maybe it was just a brief glimpse into that void where ideas go to die, because pretty soon, with the snotty, gravely gravelly “Democracy”, MIB are back on their expected form. “Democracy, democracy…a load of old shit that’s made for you and me!”. Yeah right. Tell ‘em how it is Bog Brush. Right on. Funny how a bunch of lads who aren’t actually old enough to vote have such clear and eloquent political ideologies, but there you go.
Hang on, Midget Davy Jones is asking for people to move about. Politely, because otherwise Mummy would be shocked at his poor manners. Well, it is their big statement after all and we should be using this as the anthem to smash the state and celebrate the joys of anarchic freedom. Shouldn’t we? Well, no. MIB are weaker in political relevance than a Richard Littlejohn column and about as musically valid as farting down a microphone.
Ten minutes. Five boys. Three chords. One poorly executed idea. Never mind Mums. It’s just a phase they’re going through.
Soul Circus make an altogether more appealing prospect than MIB but that’s like comparing what’s better; being sick or being injured. They both make you feel like shit and opening with a Metallica cover (For Whom the Bell Tolls) does little for the mood. There’s a time and a place for this sort of stuff and it’s the garage while mum and dad are out, not on a stage for paying punters, particularly when it’s this piss-poor and sloppy. OK, unlike MIB they can actually play, just not very well, and as they move into lighter territory, it becomes less noteworthy and overbearingly tacky. This isn’t just worthy of a bad pub band, this is spiritless power-rock that’s as out of date and stale as three-month-old cheese. Moaning wailing and riffing their little cotton socks off, Soul Circus are contrived, derivative and spiritless with no discernible sense of connection with either each other or their audience.
Vocally, their frontperson sounds like a strangled poof trying to die in a macho pose. Musically, they’re unimaginatively dull and as songwriters, they try incredibly hard but achieve little of consequence. This doesn’t mean that they’re truly awful though, as there are plenty of other bands on the scene who have no idea at all, but Soul Circus don’t seem to offer anything that’s in any way fresh or beyond ‘competently mediocre’.
Admittedly, “Generation Eulogy” and “Drive” are tunes that actually carry the band across with a slightly more edgy and engineered style, like Reanimator displaying At The Drive In type twists, and for occasional brief moments, Soul Circus sound substantially convincing. The problem is, they can’t maintain it and they end up sounding like a bad version of Carpe Diem if you can imagine such a thing. I suppose that if you were about 14, could count the number of gigs that you’d seen, obtained your musical knowledge through Scuzz and had no meaningful knowledge of the 90’s let alone the 80’s, Soul Circus would be the very pepperoni on your musical pizza. Judging by their rent-a-crowd reaction they’ve obviously hit the buzz-button with quite a few people here tonight, so if you’re among them, I wish you a long and happy life together, but I’ve got better things to waste my time with.
Absolutely bugger all soul and not much circus either.
But blimey, if MIB have a midget member, Offlimit’s guitarist makes him look positively lanky. Looking dwarfed by his guitar, his voice hasn’t even broken yet, which is amusingly cute until he proves that he can actually play the darn thing. Not well, admittedly, but better than anyone else does on stage tonight. Leaving the lead vocals to his spikey-haired colleague on the bass, they’re collectively a Mini-Me Muse, not only richly demonstrated by (count ‘em) three Muse covers but by their overall stylistics which are Muse-esque to tribute-band proportions.
They’re actually not bad when you close your eyes and just listen, but it’s not necessarily any good either and although it’s easy to make allowances for their youth, intrinsically, like Elegantly Trashed, Offlimit are only memorable because of their aesthetic novelty factor. Though certainly the superior band tonight, which isn’t really saying much, they’re frequently all over the place as a unit and in terms of their choice of songs, don’t seem to have worked out quite what to do in order to appear credible. A cover of “Basket Case” is pretty pointless and somewhat turgid, but their own material, such as the powerfully grungy “Attention Seeker” with it’s surprisingly sassy melody and charmingly cocky bass solo, is admirably mature and worthy of bands with considerably more experience. There’s just not enough of it.
At the moment, Offlimit are little more that kids who can’t believe their luck. Playing to a decent-sized crowd giving them genuine positive feedback must seem like a dream come true and that much is evident on their stubble-free faces. It’d be unfair to expect anything more from lads of 14 than reasonable enough covers and a few examples of original(ish) tunes so that’s exactly what they deliver. The problem is that they end up sounding like hundreds of other recycled wannabes that are currently doing their thing on the pub covers circuit and that’s frustrating. They’re providing nothing of true merit yet and it’s difficult to say at this stage whether they will in future, but there’s something worthwhile flapping about in the chaos that’s worth keeping an eye on and for that alone, they give the evening an extra kharzi-rating.
The lovely young ladies from Elegantly Trashed are surprisingly eardrum friendly until the vocals blend in. Ambitiously melodious indie-rock that endeavours to ebb, flow and meander, but frequently falls over itself in the process, ET’s material is at least given some thought, but not collectively. On the odd occasions when they do manage to connect and sound as if they’re all playing the same song, their ambience is gently menacing, almost purring with sinister mood, but it’s all too brief. It’s a shame really, because it quickly becomes apparent that this is as good as it’s going to get.
Vocally, ET’s seductively poised frontlady Nandi is excruciatingly ghastly. Sounding something like a cross between Toyah and a sodomised cat, with no sense of melody or control, it begs the question of whether or not she or the rest of the band ever recorded their efforts and actually listened back at what they’ve created because if they had, then surely they’d be too embarrassed to ever showcase it publicly.
Their angst-ridden anthem “Anger Management” is received with a fond, albeit shrill cheer, but it’s bad, bad rap with a silent ‘c’, full of false attitude and lyrical prattling which negates the effect of the admittedly quite engagingly animated tune. As they continue into the tuneless indie blathering of “Cloud Thirteen”, Elegantly Trashed begin to struggle audibly and visually. Their hearts aren’t in it and although it’s a convenient excuse to suggest that ET are merely having an off night, the unpleasantly simple truth is that they just aren’t any good.
What ET do have though, is some reasonably worthwhile ideas and a fairly eclectic span of influences that make them difficult to pigeonhole. They can lurk in the polluted waters of dark indie guitar rock, jump into urbane and alienated rap and get all floaty and serene too, but it’s vague, awkward and fallacious, with no faith in itself or sense of honesty.
As sexist as it might sound, Elegantly Trashed don’t appear to be much more than girls playing boys games, with far too many allowances being made for their gender and age. If they were blokes, they’d simply be regarded as a fucking awful band, but they’re not blokes, so we make special considerations even though we shouldn’t. If viewed as simply a group of teenage musicians, what they present their public with is pretty damn poor with the odd blip of indifferent mediocrity. Only the gimmick factor of their femininity makes a difference and that’s saddening to admit, because rock music is misogynistic enough without having bands that assist in the justification of that stereotype, however unintentional that may be.
If tonight’s bands are a random example of the sort of thing that we’ll have to put up with in next year’s Stable, then it’s a bleakly dismal and quite depressingly disheartening prospect. Somebody pass me a noose