Friday, 20 February 2009

NME Awards Tour - Glasvegas, Friendly Fires, White Lies, Florence and the Machine

I haven’t been to any of these 80s revival package tours, where they have hen parties and David Van Day and possibly other cool 80s stuff like remote-control cars and Saint and Greavsie. But this NME gig provided a general sense of it, albeit with shitter tunes, less alcoholic sports presenters, and a toilet venue (RIP the C***ing Academy, long live the O2 Academy).

Florence and the Machine are like bands that journalists compare to Kate Bush, with a leavening dose of Kate Nash. Florence – for ‘tis her – does lots of toothy head-girl yelling, and really is quite enthusiastic. There’s lots of dressing up involved, but none of the intimacy that this kooky-lady template seems to be based upon. The effect is less Kate Bush and more T’Pau, except that T’Pau were completely awesome.

T’Pau – ‘China In Your Hand’

White Lies are preposterously serious, like an entry-level Interpol with occasionally operatic vocals copped from Bruce Dickinson by way of emo. The lyrics don’t bear scrutiny, but at least with keyboards you’re guaranteed a couple of tunes, and the Lies deliver, tolerably. The effect is less OMD and more Ultravox, except that Ultravox were completely awesome.

Ultravox – ‘Vienna’

Friendly Fires skew this 80s revival thing a bit by sounding like one of those grim dance-punk bands from the early 00s, like the Rapture or Radio 4 or what-have-you. At a push, they’re like the Happy Mondays, except with a plummy voice nonentity instead of a lardy Mancunian drug-hoover as a frontman, and with no knack for dub or funk or house. So, then, less like the Mondays and more like one of the bands Factory signed after the Mondays made it big, I guess. Incidentally, Happy Mondays were completely awesome.

Happy Mondays – ‘Kinky Afro’

Glasvegas are supposed to be the Jesus & Mary Chain crossed with the Proclaimers, but they have nothing to do with the economy and wit of either. Tonight it’s all chest-beating and yearning howls, which is to say, more like Simple Minds. I can’t vouch for whether Simple Minds were completely awesome: I suppose not, but given the logic of this review, maybe I’ll have to revise that opinion.

Glasvegas play throbbingly loud, which suggests they caught a My Bloody Valentine concert last summer. Occasionally this works, as on aggressive terrace shouters like ‘Go Square Go’ and Tonight-with-Trevor-MacDonald-style emotive sucker-punches like ‘Daddy’s Gone’ and ‘Flowers and Football Tops’. The rest of the time, it only unbalances their odd combination of yelling, girl-groups, Elvis, RAT-pedals, and late-90s Manics.

To be fair, all these NME package tours are a shower. As far as they go, this one wasn’t bad. I hope they all become big and famous, like the Coldplay or the Killers, and don’t disappear without trace, like the Llama Farmers or Alfie: that way, I’ll end up feeling pretty ‘with it’, as far as that goes.

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