Latitude 2009

Latitude: Black Kids / Howling Bells

Michael Bonner

Excuse us while we go a bit "duuude," on your asses. "This is awesome, the sheep are painted fucking pink. It's so psychedelic, and I haven't even taken a thing," says Reggie Youngblood, singer of Florida's Black Kids, who take the stage in the UNCUT Arena as a spear of late afternoon sunshine pierces the cloud.

For all their stoner, American yoot speak (much is "awesome", we are all "dudes"), Black Kids are arguably the best way to spend your first afternoon at Latitude. They're a pop take on post-punk, blending The Clash "Magnificent Seven" style bass riffs with cheeky steals from Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and something that suspiciously sounds like Bowie's "Sound And Vision". As such, it's perhaps no surprise to see a total, demographic-busting audience here -- mothers, daughters, fathers with tots on shoulders. I'm reminded, variously, of Strokes-lite, particularly on "I've Underestimated My Charm Again", or the endearingly ramshackle fun of the Go! Team on "I'm Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You".

It's a brisk, cheery 40 minutes. And I kinda wish I could be quite so enthusiastic about Australia's Howling Bells. I have nothing particularly against the notion of Goth indie -- hey, in my patchouli splattered youth, I stood second to none in my appreciation of all things emanating from the vicinity of the Leeds 8 postal district. So it is, I can spot the serpentine bass of Sisters Of Mercy's Craig Adams echoing here, and even the mournful, one-note guitar lines of Gary Marx circa late period Sisters', like "Marian". Elsewhere, there's touches of early PJ Harvey, and even some flashes of dustbowl Americana that remind me of Hazeldine, and particularly their cover of Grant Lee Buffalo's "Fuzzy". All these things, individually, are perfectly fine in my world -- but together, they coalesce into a moderately weird and perhaps entirely unnecessary cocktail. I like, for instance, beer, bacon and chocolate -- but I wouldn't necessarily want them all served up together on a plate for dinner.

Anyway, I catch a bit of the Go! Team themselves, who're as ebullient as ever, and the wonderful Lucy Porter in the Comedy Arena, before my mum texts me to tell me, with no little excitement, that the Now Show are currently broadcasting live from the Radio 4 Arena. So it is, the rich tapestry of Latitude continues to unfold itself.

Martha Wainwright and Franz to come...


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