Friday, October 16, 2009

The Miserable Rich / Babel / The Random Family @ The Glee Club, Thursday 15th October 2009

It’s Autumn. My bits are getting cold. It’s this time of time of the year that going out gets just that bit harder. The temptation to curl up in the warm and eat your own body weight in Jaffa Cakes is difficult to resist but the prospect of seeing one of my favourite discoveries of 2009 again, The Miserable Rich, prised my sorry old ass of the sofa once more. But first the support bands richly deserve a mention, kicking off with The Random Family. How random are they? Well, for starters they’re not a family at all. Pah. I want my band names to tell the truth. After all the beatles were actually beetles, heavily made up I’ll grant you, but none the less beetles is what they were. To this day Paul McCartney still likes nothing better than rolling a big ball of dung around his garden. Fact. Anyway, glossing over the fact that The Random Family aren’t a family at all, they play a gentle form of folk pop, made for lazy summer days or, in tonight’s case, cider sodden autumnal nights. Some really lovely harmonies from the band, plenty of informal banter and a good dose of banjo made for a great start to the evening.

Next up - BABEL! That’s something biblical isn’t it? Actually there is something a little biblical about this lot…God they were good. No, really good. Watching them is akin to one of those spiritual conversions that you see on the telly. It was all I could do to stop myself from speaking in tongues. After 20 odd years of going to gigs I’m still constantly amazed by some of the truly great bands out there, doing their own sweet thing beneath the radar of much of the traditional media and, as a result, out of sight of the general public. Babel is one such band. Taking classical, bluegrass, rock n’roll, skiffle and folk, then sticking it in a blender and adding some (at times) oddball lyrics might not seem like a recipe for success but Babel somehow pull it off magnificently. Their lead singer Daniel has a lovely silky voice, note perfect (and I mean perfect) from start to finish. If chocolate could sing it would sound like him (hmmm…singing chocolate and dung ball rolling pop stars…this review’s getting weirder than usual…oh well, c’est la vie). Set against a musical backdrop that’s got shades of everything from Radiohead to Devendra Banhart, Dan Sartain, Canned Heat and ELO it was nothing less than a stunningly brilliant set. Buy the album. Go see them. Spread the word...or you'll be turned into a pillar of salt.

Babel were the dream support for another band that I’m determined to expose to the entire western world, The Miserable Rich. I first saw this band through one of those happy accidents at The Great Escape in Brighton. I was in a pub watching a band I’d planned to see then, after their set, I was getting ready to leave to move on somewhere else when I spotted a cello and stuff being set up on stage. I’m a bastard for a bit of cello so (spur of the moment kinda guy that I am) I stuck around for the next band’s set…The Miserable Rich. Described as chamber pop (that’s as good as description as I can come up with) they strike an emotional chord with me that few other bands ever have done. The wonderfully named James de Malplaquet (the lead singer) has a voice like a slightly tired and world weary angel after a double shift trying to save a gutter full of lost souls. There’s hope and despair in equal measure, songs that remind you of love, childhood and regret, lullabies and late nights. I’m not one to wear my heart on my sleeve (tried it once…blood all over the place…heart in your chest, that’s the best place for it) but The Miserable Rich are truly life affirming. Listen to ‘A Time That’s Mine’. When you’re young you look at your parents and think, I ain’t going to be like them. Work in an office 5 days a week for the next 45 years? Scrimp and save from one pay day to the next? No fear. I’m off. I’m going to be a cross dressing astronaut pop star who invents a cure for cancer, writes the best book ever written, stars in the best movie of all time and then marries a string of hotties before dying at the age of 147 in a bed full of junkie crack whores. And lo, fast forward 20 years…and you’re sat in an office. In my case (before being rudely evicted by the recession) I was actually in the same office block my father worked at for years and years and years. Well, ‘A Time That’s Mine’ captures all that emotion in just a couple of minutes, before ending on optimistic note that sort of takes you back to the age of 7 again, when the world is just so full of hope. Just lovely. That’s only one song. They have a whole album (12 Ways To Count…a true classic in every sense of the word) full of the stuff, most of which they played tonight in a set that, even coming hot on the heels of Babel’s fine showing, still managed to blow me away. From opener, Early Mourning through to Boat Song (which James touchingly dedicated to his mother) on to Monkey and Muswell each and every song is a pocket sized symphony to life’s ups and downs. You know what? If this was the last gig I ever saw, I’d die a happy man.

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