Friday, July 16, 2010
First Aid Kit / Goodnight Lenin / Mr Bones and The Dreamers @ The Hare and Hounds, Thursday 15th July 2010
After predictably failing to win ‘City of Culture’ I begin this review with a plea to whoever’s in charge of such things in Birmingham (that Martin Mullarky bloke I think). Bollocks to it all. Let’s just announce that Birmingham is ‘The World Capital of Culture 2012’. No, scrap that, let’s make Birmingham ‘The Cosmos of Culture 2012’. It’s as meaningless as ‘City of Culture’ and no one can do a damn thing about it. Ain’t marketing easy eh?
I’ve caught Mr Bones and the Dreamers quite a few times over the past few years (oooh that makes them sound like a disease doesn’t it?) and, as someone who likes the dark side of life, I’m rather attracted to their somewhat death obsessed tracks. More death songs that’s what I say. The world’s far too cheerful these days. Come on Cheryl, let’s have an album of songs about your recent brush with the grim reaper (or Simon as he’s known to his friends). ‘Bite For This Love’ anyone? Anyway, back to Mr B and the D. Once again lead Dreamer Kieren was on fine form, his voice recalling a mix of Morrissey and Anthony (with or without the Johnsons). “We’re going to keep this set nice and light for a change” he announced, before doing precisely the opposite. In amongst the misery there are some fine Arcade Fire style anthemic bits, the pick of which was their rather ace final track (‘Shapes in the Snow’ I think it was called), which saw Kieren ending up singing unplugged (and rather movingly) at the front of the stage. A bona performance.
It’s pant wettingly great to see that the Goodnight Lenin buzz is building nicely in advance of their debut single and forthcoming Bestival appearance. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen them this year (Maths was never my strong point) but every show’s still a treat. Tonight they mixed the set up a little more to keep things fresh (John added a headband for good measure too), as much for themselves as for the rest of us regulars I think, and I got the sense that now they’re really itching to get out there in the wider world to do their thang. I’d love to see them on that Later programme with Uncle Jools. They need (and deserve) that one big break and, more importantly, they’re ready for it. To back up this bold claim the holy trinity of Lenin tunes (‘WenceslasSquare’, ‘Ragged Schools’ and ‘Crook In The Creek’) were all given fine renditions this evening, Crook in particular (the debut single) got a huge roar of approval. The easy banter, such a key ingredient in their shows, flowed like Thunderbird wine and I could’ve watched and listened to them all night. The single launch is on August 6th at the Hare & Hounds and the record itself (7 inch vinyl...classy) is being released on legendary local label Static Caravan.
Finally, and after a memorable performance in the Rainbow earlier on this year I was looking forward to a second dose (that makes them sound like some kind of VD now...good grief...I'm getting worse at this), it’s Swedish country folk sisters First Aid Kit. Originally discovered (so the story goes) after posting a clip of themselves sitting in the forest singing a cover version of Fleet Foxes ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ on You Tube, they were plucked from the log on which they perched and thrust into the big, bad music biz. You couldn’t make it up could you? Well you could, but I don’t think they have (here’s the original clip if you don’t believe me).
Taking a steer from the Lenin Lads, Klara and Johanna spent a fair part of the set chatting away to the audience, convincing us to engage in a little false laughter just to make them feel better if one of their improvised funny bits failed to raise a titter. They’ve got that kind of awkward confidence that a lot of teenage girls have and somehow it’s all sweet and adorable without being ‘punch you in the head’ annoying. Clearly in thrall to the American country folk scene they’re blessed with incredibly pure, powerful voices and a knack for penning the kind of tracks that show them off to their full potential (it can’t be easy incorporating some mild yodelling into songs these days without sounding like a loon but they manage it). Just like their last gig the highlight was their acoustic version of ‘Ghost Town’, no mics, no amps, no bullshit. As the girls themselves sang on another of the set’s standout tracks, ‘Hard Believer’ “it’s beaaaautifuuuuuul”. I couldn’t agree more.