Friday, August 26, 2011

Cults / Fanzine / HEARTS / Victories At Sea DJ Set @ The Hare and Hounds, Wednesday 24th August 2011

Wow...just noticed that it’s nearly the Hearing Aid’s 5th birthday (28th August). I’ve been ‘doing this’ for 5 years. Good grief. Scarily the gig going’s been going on for a lot longer than that...23 years and counting...(oh my ears) albeit with some serious money related lean patches along the way...but 5 years seems like a hell of a long time in blogging world. Train spotters may wish to note that the first band to be reviewed on the Aid (in an alarmingly slapdash fashion...even more slapdash than usual) were CUD (at the old Academy 2). Ahhhh happy days...

Anyway, back to the future, and after some fine tunes from Victories At Sea DJ’s HEARTS kicked off proceedings with (in their words) some “trip-rock garage pop”. The lady HEARTS has a pretty powerful vocal which works well with the more understated male voice in the duo. Musically there’s a touch of late 90’s dance act Republica in places, mixed with a little of the XX’s dreamy brand of electronic and Hurts’ classy pop. Sparse guitars stab in and out of the synths like finger nails in a lover’s back. Yep, finger nails in a lover’s back (you’d think after 5 years I’d be getting better at this wouldn’t you?) Judging by the enthusiastic young ladies at the front of the crowd and some generous applause at the end of an all too short set the band succeeded in winning over more than just a few hearts tonight, but then they’re an easy band to fall in love with.

Next up Teenage on, just Fanzine. Yep, more than one person tonight pointed out a bit of a Teenage Fanclub vibe to Fanzine (just check out their track I Wanna Touch Your Hand for instance) and clearly they must’ve been a bit of an inspiration, just as The Byrds inspired Norman Blake and co before them. With vocals so laid back they’re virtually horizontal and a distinctly lo fi feel to the music there’s a pleasantly soporific quality to Fanzine. If that sounds like a bit of an insult, it ain’t. Whilst Fanzine won’t get you pogoing off the walls if you’re in the mood for drifting off and losing yourself in some timeless West Coast sounds there are few bands that do this stuff better right now.

Last up, and no doubt responsible for a 23.6% hipper crowd (at least) than even the Hare and Hounds normally pulls in, it’s Cults. Originally an indie-pop duo formed by a couple of New Yawk University students they’ve now swelled to a five piece for this, their first major UK tour. Some bands are born cool, some bands achieve coolness and some have coolness thrust upon them. Cults pretty much tick all three of these boxes. Signed to Lily Allen’s record label and attracting drooling hipster column inches across the world they’re the kind of band Phil Spector might well be producing these days (if he wasn’t...allegedly...blowing the heads off hookers). There’s a distinct 60s girl pop meets 80’s indie feel to a lot of their stuff, from the edgier opening number Abducted (as loud and thrashy as they get) through to the glockenspiel-tastic Go Outside, currently being heard on the Brothers Cider ads (you know, the one with the exploding fruit). Lead vocalist Madeline Follin neatly treads the fine line between being as cute as sack of kittens and sickeningly twee which, whilst doing that side to side knee dance thing that teenage girls do, ain’t easy to pull off. She can belt it out when she wants to though, which comes as a surprise on one of tonight’s best tracks, You Know What I Mean. Just when you’re gently swaying from side to side, lost in some sweet, dreamy lady pop you’re clobbered round the ears with a surprisingly soulful and gutsy chorus. “We’re amazed to be so far from home and to see so many people here” says Madeline as the set draws to a close with Oh My God (no, not the Kaiser Chiefs song) another slice of glockenspiel sprinkled pop. It’s no surprise to the hipster crowd though. It’s still early days of course, Cults are barely a year old in their current form, but they’ve got the makings of a band that could be a great deal bigger than the name implies...

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