More of my dangerously intimate involvement in the end-of-year issue of Redbrick.Reviews of Patrick Wolf and La Roux gigs. Click for the much-prettier PDF (also here for my official introduction and mourning of my predecessor, written by my fine and above-all-professional colleague Ms. Erica Vernon) or read on for blog-format, with bonus behind-the-scenes confessions. It’s an androgyny special! First up, most famous hairstyle in the Western World, surprising-chart-success, Ms Ellie Jackson and La Roux:“Coming on to stage to alternating chants of ‘La Roux, La Roux is on fire’ and ‘Get your bum out’; it’s almost immediately a case of audience versus band.Singer Elly Jackson, who has pretty much taken on (for tonight, at least) the mantle of La Roux herself, timidly tries to play down the attention. The tunes take a while warming up and for a while the atmosphere struggles.But soon, with the dance-to-me lights and kickin’ bass there to back her up, the crowd obey the command to get their groove on.The gig is a showcase for unheard songs from the forthcoming album, an assurance there’s some range and depth still to be seen. By the time they finally play the hit single In For The Kill, any awkwardness is gone and everyone is dancing.Elly’s even got the balls to not make it the last song. That honour goes to the new single, Bulletproof, which proves to be the song of the night, even though I’d never heard it before. It’s the song everyone goes out, satisfied, into the cold night air humming.” And the picture-of-Dorian-Gray, costume-stylin’ Romantic spaceboy from London himself, Mssr. Patrick Wolf!“Live, you realise how much of an unabashed pop bitch Patrick Wolf is. Coming on hollering ‘Birminghaaam’ into a Britney-esque head mic, he jumps straight into the crowd, interacts, making the most of his wirelessness.Dressed up like a manga character and backed up by an army of synths, it’s clear, live, just how much Patrick Wolf is David Bowie’s love child by some beautiful alien man-woman, now sent to earth to follow in his fathere’s footsteps and save us all.Patrick Wolf is obviously a fully-fledged rock star. Shouting, working the crowd, the whole band jumping up and down during Accident & Emergency.He’s a self-deprecating, confessional acoustic singer-songwriter (the least interesting personal- the most real, most human.) It’s this that struggles to carry him through a couple of slower songs in an otherwise perfectly paced gig.Somehow, live, the songs lack some of the transcedence of the records. But that’s all traded in for Wolf’s showmanship. That unavoidable throughline, his unmistakeable voice is hidden somewhat by the endless variety of songs, clothes, personas on show. The climax of the gig began to reconcile all these fragments, and you can see a charmingly vulnerable boy, at his happiest. Live, Patrick Wolf is everything.” Confession: Most of this was written whilst being bullied by the aforementioned oh-so-professional Ms Vernon. She’s a tickler, that one.
An extraordinarily busy week at Redbrick for the last issue of term led to a music section half-written by me. Here are the results, in installments. First, an interview with the surprisingly lovely unsigned-band Chapman Family. “The Chapman Family are, in some ways, a band of contradictions: tonight, they’re playing to a young, impressionable, NME-reading audience, here to see La Roux.The Chapman Family: a self-described ‘fuckin’ miserable band’. Their set is a whirlwind of smashing guitars, strangulation with microphone leads and aggressively noisy music with some very naughty words in.The Chapman Family- a band that made a girl in front of me swoon, with her hand to her forehead like a character in a Jane Austen novel. Clearly believe in the legend, the spectacle of rock & roll. But their ferocious maltreatment of the guitars is a ‘treat’ with a very mundane flipside:‘I need to save one; I can’t just break ’em every night ‘cus I haven’t got enough money… When we’ve had two days off, I’ve basically fixed two or three guitars. The ones I’ve got now are cobbled together from bits ‘n’ bobs.’The band are unsigned: ‘No one else [on the tour] is unsigned… We’re used to playing gigs for free. Being surrounded by crew who carry our stuff in was an absolute revelation.’A lot of their opposing lead singer Kingsley is a down-to-earth, often self-deprecating gentleman, while bassist Pop (self-proclaimed ‘half the talent in the band’) is a little more aggressively opinionated.Kingsley takes comparisons to Maximo Park and Futureheads in his stride. It’s unfair and lazy, based on a shared Northern accent:‘No one goes to [wonderfully-named girl-goth band] An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump, ‘you sound like The Libertines, just ‘cus they’re from London.’There’s a clear common ground in the distaste for bands of ‘local people with fake cockney accents’ and Kinglsey admits playing tribute to those bands:‘First year we played, fair enough, we probably ripped off Maximo Park and Futureheads more than anyone else.’But the band are much dirtier, much louder, more rock & roll than that. And there is an infuriating coincidence with Maximo Park’s single Kids Are Sick Again being released close to their similarly-titled Kids (Are Alright).Meanwhile, Pop’s opinion is a little more straight forward: ‘They can fuck off back down the hole they came from.’Pop Chapamn is given to the kind of hyperbolically impassioned statements that make my heart melt. He casually announces Roxy Music’s Do the Strand as featuring ‘the best lyric ever written by any human being’.Pop joined the band after they’d been together for a while, bringing to the table ‘a lack of musical knowledge… and a box of distortion pedals.’The two play off each other, debating and squabbling about celebrity adoption and the best beers (the tequila-infused Desperado) as much as selling-out and The Horrors model of 20-minute sets.It’s an odd thought, but they seem a willfully small band, massively DIY. Kingsley ‘used to do T-shirts that I’d paint myself. People are still fucking getting in touch with me and going, like, can you do the painted ones? ‘Cus I preferred them.’They’ve played gigs ‘for two people.’ Their solution? ‘Play as hard as you fucking can… One of those people might really like it.’ But now their moment might be coming, and there are already accusations of being ‘sell-out bastards… Purely because we managed to get on MTV.’The Chapman Family are a band whose, in Pop’s words, inspirations include ‘the size of boobies, a drink of beer’. They’re a band waiting for a cult of manic devoted fans. If they get it, it’s reassuring to think they probably wouldn’t abuse it.Even if they are sell-out bastards.” You can listen to the Chapman Family (and read some of the quite impassioned rants that inspired the majority of this interview) at their MySpace. Confession: I’m a bit worried that ending didn’t come off quite as ironic as possible. And, rereading, can’t believe I couldn’t fit the actual Roxy Music lyric in: it’s “Rhododendron is a nice flower”. Which very possibly actually is the best lyric ever.