Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Navvy / Poppy and the Jezebels / Tempting Rosie / Panda Pop Culture @ The Rainbow, Monday 4th May 2009

I’ve been thinking recently. Dangerous, I know, but it happens. I’ve been thinking about music, specifically the fetishisation (if there is such a word) of, for want of a better term, ‘old’ music by ‘old’ people (yes, I suppose I fall into that category). I read Mojo magazine for example, mainly because it’s pretty well written and covers a fairly wide range of stuff (plus you get a free CD – remember them – stuck onto the front cover with jizz). Reading most of the articles however you get the distinct sense that most writers cling to the belief that music was somehow better in the ‘good’ old days. There’s a sniffiness there that, coupled with the alarmingly rapid churn of bands nowadays (accelerated by the elimination of the need for physical product and the existence of…er…blogs…like this…) makes me fear for the future of music as a culturally powerful force. Maybe someone will be writing about the wonders of some of tonight’s bands in 20 years time, reminding folk of how great music was back in 2009. However, I fear that in 2029 we’ll still be churning out books about Bob bloody Dylan and the Beatles (neither of whom I’ve got anything against by the way). I guess what I’m saying is that it would be a shame if today’s music became as disposable as everything else in society (carrier bags, jobs, people, sane news coverage…). Each generation deserves to leave it’s mark on our collective culture and, one of the many joys of music for me, is delving back into the dim and distant past to discover the good stuff that’s already been done. If people don’t have any faith in the stuff that’s coming out now how will future generations? Here endeth the lesson, on with the review.

First up, Panda Pop Culture. Panda Pop (the drink that is) is brightly coloured, fizzy and rather sweet, so it’s an apt name for a band that combines the bouncy Afro tinged beats of Vampire Weekend with the pop punk of Buzzcocks. I particularly liked Peter Pan, a track about growing old (or not wanting to grow old in this case). There was something strangely moving about watching teenagers fretting about not wanting their ‘skin to fold’ and how people look ‘so lonely when they’re old’. Last night I felt a little like one of those old people, being a good 600 years or so older than most of the bands or audience members. It’s not something that bothers me one jot though. There’s an energy you get from new bands like Panda Pop Culture that you just can’t beat, a kind of musical botox…


Next up Tempting Rosie…a 7 piece ska band that almost literally blew the place apart. With the revival of The Specials, ska’s enjoying a bit of a second (oh alright then third or forth) coming. Thank the Lord for that. It’s pure party music and, played well, like it was tonight, it’s pretty hard to resist. The three piece brass section would give Dexy’s a run for their money (at midnight or any other time), the lead guitarist had some particularly nifty musical moves, vocals were delivered with plenty of oomph (I do like some oomph) and I found myself involuntarily skanking away (not a pretty sight). If anything the appearance of rapper/MC Tijhs took things up a notch higher, adding a fresh twist to the band’s sound. Discovering that this was the first time Tijhs had ever performed live (not only with the band…but ever) was simply astonishing. The guy has a real talent. All in all if they keep this up the future of the band looks very rosie indeed…



Pausing for a glug or two of vin rouge (hangover…what hangover…oh that hangover…ouch) next up were the cooler than cool Poppy and the Jezebels. I’ve seen P and the J’s several times before and I’m glad to report that they look like they’re enjoying the performance side of things a lot more now (before they always looked a little nervous and / or disinterested at times…but maybe that’s just a teenage thing…it was a hell of a long time ago for me). Richly deserving the press attention that they’ve received they’re steadily developing a clutch bag (60’s naturally) full of catchy pop songs that Phil Spector would kill for…that is if he hadn’t already blown the head off some poor unfortunate. The X-ray Spex meets Stereolab of ‘UFO’ and the bouncy sugar sweet catchiness of ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ made this the best set I’ve seen them play. The latter track’s just been released on trendy label Mute Irregulars, securing The Guardian’s Pick Of The Week slot and the band’s playing the Isle of Wight festival in June. If only we still had a Top of the Pops…they’re made for it.

Finally, NME tipped (don’t worry, I’m not buying it, merely reading it in WH Smiths…helping to bring about the downfall of yet another business…god help us all) post punk popsters Navvy. Imagine The Fall doing a duet with the late, great Bis and you’ve got a fair idea of the sound, jerky angular tunes (and words) punctuated with screamy, shouty bits. What’s not to like? Yet another great ‘artrock’ band to tickle your earlobes and proof that there’s a whole bunch of fab stuff being made out there (often under the radar). Returning to the theme of my opening address (must we I hear a nation cry), music today’s as rich, vibrant and creative as it’s always been. It wasn’t any better or worse in 59, 69, 79, 89 or 99. Granted it’s a hell of a lot harder to stand out these days given the incredible number of bands and channels out there but if only 10% of the 30 or 40-somethings who happily paid £30 to see The Specials got off their arses to see what today’s teenagers were up to I’ve got a feeling that they’d be pleasantly surprised…

2 comments:

Ken Davidson said...

Has someone worked the numbers on this? How many 'bands' (pro or otherwise) out there per capita per country? How would the answer to this question compare to, 10, 20, 30 years ago?

The churn: alarming, yes. There seems to be no longevity. Time was you'd allow a band like The Eurythmics (say) to punt out 2 or 3 stinky early albums, in order to reap the benefits of albums 4 thru 8, and lament their downslide with albums 9 thru 12. Nowadays? A band is likely to have either (a) vanished into obscurity after 20 tracks (note, not using the term album anymore), or (b) just run out of song-writing juice after a year.

A bit like modern 'comedians' - they're worse than sodding jobbing footballers, with a 5-year 'window of earning' then retirement to a bungalow on the Isle of Wight.

The Baron said...

Hmmm, good question, I wonder how many bands there are out there per person? Will there one day be enough for every single man, woman and child to have their own personal band...ready to pen a little tune for them on their birthday or maybe if they're just feeling a little off?

I like the idea of song-writing juice too. Coca-cola should get on to that one. They could get Amy Winehouse to advertise it...

Anyway, I'm off to my retirement bungalow on the Isle of Wight.