Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart / Depreciation Guild / Little Palm @ The Academy, Saturday 5th December 2009

Nearly Christmas eh? Done all your shopping yet? Nope, me neither…that list just sits there taunting me like a retail version of Dorian Grey’s portrait…whatever the hell that means. Still, what better way to take my mind off it all than a nice bit of imported shoegazing from the US eh? First up though some piano pomp from local girl making good Little Palm. I’ve only ever seen her in ickle venues before, so I was interested to see how she’d come across in the larger confines of the Academy 2. Rather well as it turned out. Her voice is even stronger than before and tracks like ‘My Sweet’ have fine touches of Regina Spector, Tori Amos and Kate Bush. As I’ve noted before though, she has her own style which seems to be evolving nicely. One thing that did come across tonight was that many of her songs reflected rather badly on men. One in particular ‘Pull Your Trousers Up’ was particularly scathing. As a (sort of) man this makes for uncomfortable listening. Clearly, if the songs are autobiographical, which they do seem to be, Little Palm hasn’t had the best of times with the opposite sex. I only hope that this, perhaps all too justified (after men, just like women, can be complete shits) sense of bitterness doesn’t overwhelm her as an artist and, more importantly, I hope that she finds true love somewhere, someday. This possibly wasn’t the best bill for her (after all the other two bands were distinctly guitar based and it was an early start too, so the room was pretty quiet to begin with) but she still has what it takes to be more than ‘A Minor’ success in my mind (see what I did there, clever eh? Oh alright then…I won’t use my, “If you want to see her in a small venue you’d better ‘B Sharp’” line again then either).

Next up, straight outta Brooklyn, Noo Yawk (“Hey wha’ you lookin’ at buddy” etc) it’s Depreciation Guild. Trading in scuzzy, swirling guitars and Green from Scritti Politti style vocals (and lyrics for that matter) they’ve taken that distinctive mid to late 80’s Anglo indie sound and put their own little twist on it with the addition of some nice vintage arcade game style electro bleeps (although tonight this element didn’t come across quite as strongly as it does on some of their recorded tracks). One of my companions for the evening remarked on how weird it was that a young American band was so obviously enamoured with relatively obscure bands like Ride, but then I guess what goes around comes around and perhaps, culturally speaking, the time’s right for a little more musical introspection. In short, if 4AD’s your favourite record label and Hungry Horace Goes Skiing is your favourite computer game (on the ZX Spectrum, naturally) then Depreciation Guild could well be your next favourite band.

Finally, with a gentle nod (better make that a bloody big nod) to the indie pop of yore (Pale Saints / pretty much anything on the legendary Sarah records / the whole darn C86 movement etc) The Pains of Being Pure At Heart play the sort of jangly, staring at your shoes whilst gently swaying from side to side music that’s designed for lonely teens all over the world. Tonight’s gig had attracted a fair few of ‘em, plus, unsurprisingly I guess given the strong nostalgic flavour of their music, a fair few thirty / forty somethings wearing regulation Jesus and Mary Chain t-shirts.

At its worst this kind of music, not shoegaze in its strictest form, but with a ‘shoegazery’ element, can be a little dull and self indulgent. TPOBPAH manage to negotiate this tricky path though with more of a cute indie pop ethic that makes you feel 16 again (in my case that’s nothing short of a minor miracle). So, perhaps less shoegaze, more shoe glance then? The band even generated a few lively jiggling moments too – most notably on their more jaunty numbers like ‘Young Adult Friction’ (which really sounds like a Stars – one of the Broken Social Scene bands –track to me).

There were some sweet touches too, especially when keyboard player Peggy exclusively revealed that band’s guilty secret was an addiction to obscure Utah Saints tracks (she started singing one of ‘em to prove it) before doing the one thing that so many overseas bands do by asking asked if Black Sabbath were really from Birmingham (cue a rather well played snatch of the chorus to 'Paranoid') from lead vocalist and guitarist Kip. Peggy actually seemed even more impressed that Birmingham was also the birthplace of ELO, perhaps signalling the band’s future direction? I doubt it somehow, although I think some orchestral pomp might actually suit some of their songs. On top of the aforementioned ‘Young Adult Friction’ two other tracks really stood out for me tonight. The jangletastic ‘Come Saturday’, complete with its jolly ‘wooooooh’ bits (cue some more jiggling from side to side from some of the audience) and ‘Stay Alive’, which made the best use of Kip and Peggy’s sweetly blessed out vocals against a fuzzy wall of guitars. In essence it’s music that gives you a big hug and tells you it’ll all be okay and, with tracks like these, surely cult-dom beckons. Who knows, perhaps in 20 years time I’ll be standing (or maybe lying, dribbling) next to a bunch of thirty somethings wearing ‘The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’ t-shirts?

No comments: