This years’ NME tour is an entertaining set of contrasts but, with one notable exception, as derivative as hell. It was 2003’s equivalent of a package starring Smokie, Joy Division, The St Winifred’s School Choir and AC / DC. And oooh, how they’ll hate me for saying that.
The Thrills are sadly-misnamed. Battling a disgraceful sound quality on this occasion, they’re a sort of cross between Wilco and Mercury Rev without the charisma or bite of either. Still, it was an undemanding start to the show. “When are they going to play ‘Hotel California’?” asked my neighbour.
Looking like Kraftwerk fronted by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Interpol were certainly a bit more stimulating, both visually and musically. There’s a disciplined sparsity about their sound which almost makes you forget that Joy Division were doing this stuff two decades ago. But who can blame today’s students for wanting a slice of such action? Style, content, perameters: 10 / 10. Originality? Hmm … They’re not much use if you like any soul in your music, and if that ugly bassist keeps on smoking like that, he won’t live long enough to appreciate his success.
Four things that I like are: friendly people, The Eels Orchestra, Texas (the state, not the band) and the Flaming Lips. As the Polyphonic Spree are all four, I was in heaven as they comprehensively slayed this “cool” audience and elicited mass adulation, despite being a huge gang of berobed hippies. Mind you, they had a cheek expecting us to pay money for all that pretentious droning on their album. Luckily, live, they stick to the tunes. Even the soundman woke up for a while. You can’t help but wonder what kind of salary the members are on. Still, at least there’s no problem if someone leaves – they probably wouldn’t even notice.
And so to the Datsuns. If you like third-rate cock-thrusting seventies heavy metal, this is your band. If not, it isn’t. We need punk, NOW.
From AMPLIFIER magazine
In a country where Mercury Rev’s “The Dark Is Rising” has recently been adopted as the station ident of one of the leading TV channels, it’s perhaps not surprising that Doves are popular enough for their album “The Last Broadcast” to debut at number 1 in the charts and stay there. We Brits like a good tune, you see.?
There are a couple of results of this. Firstly, it means that the audience doesn’t care that Doves are a charisma-free zone. That’s nicely reassuring in an industry dominated by plastic, manufactured bands, and maybe bodes well for possible acceptance in the less fashion-conscious US. The fact that the US single Top 100 in May contained not a single British record caused front page news, TV investigations and much soul-searching and self-flagellation within the UK music industry.?
Secondly, it means that the audience is as eclectic as it is possible to be, consisting of nice middle-aged couples attracted by the soaring melodies and the fact that they cover King Crimson (I think they sound like Camel, and I’m sticking to it) plus a healthy (or unhealthy) proportion of out and out druggies attracted by the dance elements. The guys round us where so high I thought they were going to take off and float round the room.?
What? The music? Well, there the news is all good. Given that both the new Doves album and the previous one (“Lost Souls”) are masterpieces, the only question was “Can they hack it live?” and the answer is an emphatic yes. The lack of traditional rock poses on stage (bassist and lead vocalist Jimi Goodwin looks like your average garage mechanic, or, to put it another way, a member of Grandaddy) is more that made up for by a stunning light show and a highly imaginative movie backdrop which had me pining for the Cure or even Pink Floyd. Yet these are hip guys from Manchester who claim never to have seen a ship before arriving in Portsmouth.?
Highlights are hard to pinpoint, since there wasn’t a dull musical moment at all, unless I missed it in the queue for the bathroom. A substantial proportion of both albums was played, including a beautiful mood-altering acoustic interlude on “Friday’s Dust” and then, in the encore, they employed a trick familiar to Electric Soft Parade and … And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: Drummer and lead vocalist swapped places for a jaw-droppingly brilliant rendition of “Here It Comes”, introduced by a celluloid John Cooper Clarke. A brief tongue-in-cheek Moby / Sub Sub pastiche and they were gone.?
Doves appeared totally shell-shocked at their unexpected but richly-deserved surge in popularity. And this is only the beginning.?
From Amplifier Magazine