RENT BOYS AND TWIGLETS: a love story -
The guttural call of the fashion industry plucks out little darlings ready to repeat past crimes on style. These dandys tend to start bands - due to a thread of inspiration - and every year it seems a handful of these make it on to the annual NME tour.
The NME tour hasnt been known for its diversity in the selection of bands, or revolutionary choices in music or anything like that. So going here is either about, having a good time; or posing.
Most do both, some are just carried away by the pendulum that swings to elude them.
The bands tonight- The Drums, Big Pink, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees are somewhat oiled up beefy versions of the sort of bands that played this tour last year: although they all show some sort of progression in the indie world: by playing homage to genres like shoe gaze or surf-rock.
The band first up, The Drums are what youd called a buzz band, the hype that surrounds them is the product of the glee that people in magazines felt when they discovered that there are pop-songs still being made that pack sunshine in a can. However there is also something very suspicious, and also typical, about the buzz around The Drums; evident of course from the eager men scattered around the entrance of the Corn Exchange with pens and folders bugging you about joining the Drums mailing list (which I in fact did), like a charity worker or door-to-door-salesman, and the convenient factor that you're only allowed to leave the Corn Exchange for a smoke at the time of 8.15; the time that the Drums set had finished.
But this of course is either major cynicism or just typical of packaged-rock bands, bands that are solely given fame through hype and photo-boosted publicity.
As they take to the stage its evident that the Drums have literally
nothing to show for the claims that their the ones to watch
in 2010 or that outrageously positive review in the NME- 9/10 (not to
mention my review here
. Ahem Im
sorry, I was windswept and fooled by their loveable pop). The sound
they make on the stereo is very different to the performance. The lead
singers voice lacks any consistency in style; at times he sounds like
a droll Ian Curtis and at other moments a teenage male Cindy Lauper.
The guitarist looks like a toddler trying to hold a fender strat upright with struggle due to the straps length, not to mention the fact that the keyboard and bass are both being played through a backing track. The Cambridgeshire bohos are a frozen mass of heads as the size of the Corn Exchange simply emphasises how small the Drums look. By the end of the set hair styles are intact and the frankly un-inspired mass leaves in an orderly cue.
I wouldnt regret saying that it's like Busted all over again. But hey, it's fine - people like this sort of stuff, its the inevitable product of the music industry. Being subjected to it, due to believing differently, is another matter.
Loved by the NME and loathed by almost every other magazine, Big Pink are the twilight darlings of the neo-shoe gaze movement. They strut their greasy-mofos and unlike the Drums can actually play their songs similar to how they sound on record.
Big Pink's dark grooves and grungey soundscapes fill the Corn Exchange successfully but everyone is stationary and disinterested, up until they whip out their one hit, Dominoes. At this moment- everyone seems to be the best of friends.
This is the shortest of the sets tonight and we are once more subjected to the Shockwaves and skins commercials on the screens.
Bombay Bicycle Club are the band that finally gets the night going. Looking like a bunch of lads out of Ferris Bueller they dont appear to be the most charismatic or cool, but stir the crowd with their smooth hypnotic pop- jittering between slow sing-along moments and heavy strumming- backed up by strobe lighting.
A short, stocky secondary schoolboy-looking lad in a black polo is there on drum-programming, roadie and general idolizing duties - obviously roped in from some after-school club or sixth-form social circle.
Each twist and turn in their songs is crystal clear, but so dead-on and rightly-timed down to a t, that the set also seems a wee bit uptight.
This leaves Maccabees then to take-over from the warm-up acts. The difference in the crowd when they take to the stage is then remarkable, it's as if this is solely a Maccabees gig and the somewhat dreary masquerade before Bombay Bicycle Club were the appetizers.
The boys-next-door image is however just the exterior to
a selection of songs that not only have substance, but grandiose charm
that not many bands pull of successfully (Big Pink and Broken Records
being good examples).
Words Joe Aybak
Pix Steve Bateman - more here