After fighting our way through the infighting Tories currently polluting the good streets of Brum and dozens of Horrors fans (they were also playing The Institute tonight...The Horrors that is, not the Tories...) the relative peace and tranquillity of The Temple (think of it as The Institute’s loft conversion) came as a blessed relief. Of course you can have too much peace and quiet though. Thankfully London’s Hidden Charms were on hand to liven things up a bit. Quite a bit. In fact one hell of a bit. Think Small Faces, Hamburg era Beatles, Mod swagger, razor sharp riffs, effortless cool...that’s Hidden Charms in a nutshell.
Okay, so they’ve only been playing together for a matter of months and there’s an element of reinventing the wheel...albeit the wheel of a particularly kick ass Vespa...but when this lot let rip their charm’s irresistible.
I did chemistry at school but I can’t ever remember it being as frankly hot ‘n’ sexy as the chemistry between July Talk’s Leah and Peter, the latter of which begins the set by eyeballing the crowd slightly menacingly and slapping himself in the face. Hell, it sure beats a meek and mild “Hello Birmingham” eh? What follows is an hour or so of primal sweat, honey and whisky drenched rock ‘n’ roll madness that makes most bands seem as exciting as Sunday School. There’s a real physicality to the show with Leah constantly pawing and clawing at Peter like a cat with a mouse and Peter in turn pulling her hair and palming her away by the face. It’s Burton and Taylor, Sinatra and Gardener, Sid and Nancy...every gloriously fucked up passion fuelled relationship rolled into one and played out before you to a dirty, bluesy soundtrack. And where the hell did Peter’s voice come from? Dude sounds like he’s been chain smoking roll-ups and gargling with gravel since birth. Makes Tom Waits sound like a freakin’ choir boy. Pair him with Leah’s vocal, which ranges from butter wouldn’t melt angel to unhinged party animal, and the result’s hotter than a July heatwave.
Highlights? Pretty much every tune’s a killer but Summer Dress (Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus meets Johnny Cash meets Blondie), the smouldering slow burn to explosive orgasm of Paper Girl and the Stones-ish whoohoohoo of Guns + Ammunition are three of the best.
I’ll also take the vision of Leah provocatively dribbling honey and whisky into the open mouths of various members of the audience to the grave with me...and Peter 'tightrope walking' along the edge of the barrier at the front of the stage whilst playing guitar could have easily ended up with a trip to A&E but, like all the best bands, this lot perform without a safety net.