Thursday, February 14, 2013

Darwin Deez / Electric Guest @ O2 Academy, Wednesday 13th February 2013

When he/they (it’s a band as well as a dude) first bounced into our lives a couple of years ago Darwin Deez seemed to have novelty act written all over him/them thanks in part to his/their habit of dancing like a loon to old pop hits. Yep, like this one...

Happily though he/they have hung around and building on his/their previously addictive singles, Constellations, Bad Day and Radar Detector, this year saw the release of the meatier, life affirming new one Free (The Editorial Me). Sure Darwin still looks a little like a skinny hipster Hasidic Jew but it’s a great track to blast out at the rest of the office on a Monday morning (which probably explains why I don’t work in an office any more). Funnily enough by a stroke of serendipity today, Wednesday 13th February, is exactly 4 years to the day since I was made redundant. I guess you don’t get much more ‘free’ than that eh?

First up tonight, and with a bit of a Gnarls Barkley vibe (no surprise as they’ve worked with Danger Mouse), Electric Guest bring a little soul, a little funk and a little hip electro wibble to the party. This is their first major jaunt to the UK apparently but many of their tunes have such an easy charm that the crowd were unusually receptive. They left out their awesome cover of Little Dragon’s Ritual Union but the northern soul / Smokey Robinson tinged This Head I Hold and the funkier Awake made up for it. 

More than welcome guests all round.

Darwin Deez is a real opinion splitter with some snotty reviewers (as if they know jack eh?) seemingly dissing him for his skinny hipster look, kooky personality or..shock horror...actually daring to have fun up there on stage. Balls. Music needs more fun in it these days. You want serious? Stick CNN on. That’s not to say that Deez is just playing it for laughs. The son of a mixed race psychologist his new album Songs For Imaginative People examines such knotty issues as existentialism and in a recent interview he even admitted to having the odd suicidal thought or two. Blimey. So beneath the frizzy hair, dance routines and catchy pop there’s clearly a lot more going on.

Coming on stage the current 4 piece line up kicked things off in traditional Darwin Deez style with a little dance routine, these are something that they dropped into the set throughout the night often earning as many whoops and cheers as the songs. Think Spike Jonze’s iconic Praise You video and you’ll have some idea of the level of choreography involved. The haters might not like it but it’s undoubtedly one of the highlights of the set. “Dance like no one’s looking” wrote Mark Twain and these little skits have that joyful, just don’t give a damn feel about them. Dance routines aside Team Deez were on fine form tonight dishing out all of the addictive hits from the debut album together with material from the hot off the press follow up. Free (The Editorial Me) made a welcome early appearance, on the surface a bouncy indie pop hit (part Ben Folds Five part Tom Petty), underneath an existential anthem...seriously. Neat. It gave Darwin an opportunity to showcase his growing axe skills too, something that earned the odd shout of “Hendrix” throughout the gig. Whilst Jimi’s not got anything to worry about just yet there were some pretty decent solos in there on stuff like Moonlit (the vid below's from another recent show...skip to 2mins 30 seconds in for the solo). 

Seemingly DD set himself the task of learning the six string guitar (trading up from his four string) a while back and a mere 500 or so hours later, voila. Speaking of learning things it’s pretty clear that Deez fans love his lyrics judging by the impressive recall many of them had. His  request for them to sing along to the lost love song Bed Space, dedicated by Darwin “To all the heartbroken”, received a particularly impressive response for an low key album track, so you can imagine the reaction the singles got. They’re freaking great too, kicking off first with the choppy guitar powered Radar Detector mid set with the star gazing Constellations and revenge anthem Bad Day bringing up the rear during the encore. Add this year’s Free (The Editorial Me) and you’ve got an impressive run of clever, catchy pop tunes. I’m guessing that’s not where he’s going though judging by some of the newer stuff, some of which included the kind of acid tinged guitar freak out solos that you might expect from Zappa or a Hipster Hendrix. There’s a more thoughtful, deeper and rockier vibe to this recent material and it’s not impossible to imagine the dude coming up with some huge great double concept album in a few years time. That’ll give the reviewers something to suck on. Like the other slightly more famous (for now at least) Darwin his evolution’s going to be every bit as fascinating...

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