Saturday, October 29, 2011

Man Like Me / HEARTS / Resistant Regime @ The Rainbow, Friday 28th October

It's Friday! The clocks go back this weekend! An extra hour in bed. Hurrah! But then again it gets dark at lunchtime. Boo! I don’t know about you but I always find the effort required to prise my sorry old ass off the sofa to go out to a gig increases exponentially (yes, I’ve been reading the dictionary again) once BST does one for another year, especially given the dazzling entertainment on offer on telly these days. Is every area of Britain going to get its own ‘reality’ show? Where’s Birmingham’s eh? I vote for calling it ‘Taking It Up The Brum’, an in depth look at the lives and loves of the strange creatures that inhabit Broad Street. Watch with amazement as ‘Big’ Steve cops off with Cheryl from Accounts on a work’s night out, hide behind the cushions as Kylie, Tracie and Stacy totter unsteadily between the rows of illegal ‘taxis’, trying to negotiate a trip home for a handjob (do you know how hard it is to get jizz out of a Primark boobtube?) and pluck out your own eyeballs at the vision of some old biffa in a thong flashing at Nick Owen enjoying a cheeky half of real ale at Spoonies before vomiting all over the fruit machine. ‘Taking It Up The Brum’, come on Channel 5, let’s make the magic happen.

Anyway, happily The Rainbow is as far away from the festering river of filth that is Broad Street as you can get in the City centre and tonight’s bill kicks off with the slightly scarily named Resistant Regime. This is the kind of music you get blasting out of pimped up rides down the mean streets, beat heavy, lyrically edgy and in thrall to the great gods of rap. A bit of a Birmingham collective they’ve got some decent sounds and words going on with Take Notes and Everyday (shades of the great Ice T’s It Was A Good Day in there) really hitting the spot. I’ve said it before...and I’ll probably say it again...but whilst Birmingham’s clearly a bit of a hotbed of talent when it comes to the whole rap/hip hop thang there’s still a bit of a disconnect between the core live music scene in the City and dudes like this though. Kudos to Birmingham Promoters for giving them a slot. Let’s see more of it eh?

Next up HEARTS (in CAPITALS...that’s most IMPORTANT). Last seen supporting Cults earlier in the year at the Hairy Hounds I’d kind of forgotten how good they were. A boy/girl synth/guitar duo with a little Crystal Castles/The Knife/The Kills in the mix they blend the rocky element with the more clinical electro feel better than most bands I’ve seen. The female vocalist is blessed with one of those voices that sounds slightly detached but capable of conveying strong emotions at the same time, adding in the odd Florence-ish flourish for good measure. Pick of the set once again was the piano driven Ice, an instantly catchy piece of atmospheric rock n’bass.

Finally and, finger on the pulse as ever, a new name to me despite having been around for a few years it’s Man Like Me. As soon as I found out that they were dudes who’d bought Jona Lewie’s antisocial anthem You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties back to life I was pretty much sold on them. A quick trawl through You Tube uncovered some of the most fun tunes laid down since Madness went one step beyond. Rap, brass, synth, joyful laugh out loud piss taking lyrics...what’s not to like. Sure their tongues are embedded firmly in their cheeks for a lot of the set but who says music’s gotta be serious all the time? Boy, we could all do with a laugh right now eh? That being said, whilst some of the tunes sail pretty close to the rocky cliffs of ‘novelty’, they manage to be catchy without making you feel all, you know, dirty inside. A neat trick if you can do it. In fact, a little like fellow rap jokers America’s Ugly Duckling, they’re sort of cool despite all that larky humour.

From the instant the three of them bounced onstage The Rainbow was Party Central. Recent single Peculiar, a wry look at how fast things change (how old are this lot...late 20’s?...jeez, you should try being 117 like me), is arguably the best thing they’ve ever done. A crotch thrusting, hip shaking, hands in the air party banger it’s a glorious mix of tropicalia, rap and brass with just the merest snatch of grime for da kids. Seriously it has to be a contender for single of the year. Chucking such a massive TUUUUUUNE into the set so early might’ve backfired but to be honest the three of them put so much into the live show that there was no danger of peaking too early. The core duo of Johnny and Pete provide the jumping around rap stuff, with the Tigger-ish Johnny gradually stripping off as the night wore on (steady now ladies), whilst (and I’m not sure if he’s a full time member of the band or not) a third dude adds more of a soulful vocal. Looking at some of their other live gigs there’s sometimes up to 7 of them up there, with live brass really adding to the party atmosphere. Tonight that was all on a backing track but it would be churlish to deduct points on this score...I can’t imagine it’s easy carting a brass section around the country in the back of a van. Still pretty fresh to my ears Oh My Gosh and encore London Town came across like old mates but, to be honest, even the stuff I’d never heard has that same kind of instant appeal.

You know what, in some ways Man Like Me could be the spiritual descendants of Madness. Both are sons of Camden and both have that rare knack for fusing social commentary with bouncy, fun pop songs. Whilst Suggs and co took the sounds of Ska house parties onboard Man Like Me are inspired by the pirate radio era...jungle, drum and bass, rap, grime and all that schnizzle. But, just like the Nutty Boys, they bring something fresh and unique to it all. Hell, let’s not overanalyse it. Right now Man Like Me are the ultimate party band, a three man jukebox stuffed full of pop gold. The best night out in town? Could be...

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