The hiccup of The Slits’ no-show on day one of Club Uncut’s residency at Brighton’s Great Escape didn’t dampen spirits for last night’s more typically full-on and varied affair.
Teenagersintokyo look like some last, lost Malcolm McLaren project. Singer Samantha Lim, with a bowl haircut and long white dress suggesting ancient Roman aristocracy, yelps enthusiastically at the front of an almost all-girl band (the drummer’s a bloke), with more than a hint of Karen O. A cover of Hall And Oates’ “Man-Eater” is their most obvious debt to the ‘80s, their least original feature. Sheer giddy enthusiasm at being on stage together carries the day.
Last year’s debut album by Athens, Georgia’s Dead Confederate, “Wrecking Ball”, didn’t make much impression on me or many others in the UK, though J Mascis is a fan (and it did make Uncut Debut Of The Month – Ed). Listening more carefully sitting on Brighton beach before the show, I suddenly realise it’s a beautifully played, fascinating set of songs, mostly about war – either the one between the States, in Iraq, or between singer-songwriter Hardy Morris and his girlfriend.
After a soundcheck slightly shorter than the Mesozoic Era, reminding you that they were signed by Nirvana A&R Gary Gersh, meaning someone expects great things, they kick off at brutal pace. Morris turns out to be a flop-fringed Crispin Glover lookalike, with a voice veering between a hick whine and Eddie Vedder bass. You can’t see the drummer for clouds of hair, the bassist’s beard makes him look like he served under Jefferson, or at least with Garth Hudson, and great soul organ drives everything forward. There’s glistening detail to the playing, and “Heavy Petting” ends with them jerking round the stage in boyish bedlam. But the ear-battering volume doesn’t let in much light or shade, or allow you to hear those songs, making the excitement flatten out. Highly promising, anyway.
The Fiery Furnaces’ decision last year to make their seventh album “I’m Going Away” a set of relaxed, conventional songs paid dividends. It had the easy pleasure of Motown at times. Tonight, though, Eleanor Friedberger struggles to make herself heard over music leaning more towards clattering anti-folk tales. Brother Matthew is an anonymous, quizzical presence to her side, and it feels like a missed opportunity.
Wild Beasts take the stage like a band who’ve been playing their second album “Two Dancers” for many months now, sheer adrenalin taking them over the top one more time. “Really need time off,” I think I hear one of them say, but this just adds dishevelled energy to their songs’ stock of heightened romantic imagery. “Hooting & Howling” still sounds sexy and arch, and Hayden Thorpe’s divisive, mountain-high vibrato still shivers appropriately.
We’re all pegged out by the finish, and Wild Beasts look ready for new challenges. As are we, when we report on Club Uncut’s last night in Brighton tomorrow.
Review: NICK HASTED