Friday, September 24, 2010

Indietracks: Day In Day Out Day In Day Out

I will not go through all the subsequent Indietracks bands in such detail. For many, little need be said. In fact, for many nothing need be said, at least by me. One band who were talking about, however, were Greek art rock sensations The Callas, who we saw on the Saturday. There were three of them, two blokes and a woman. They all wore sunglasses and had an air of snarling uncommunicativeness (possibly driven by their not being Anglophones, but it worked for me). Their drummer was rather impressive, though this might have been just in comparison to the shite programmed drumming of an earlier band whose name I am not at liberty to divulge. And the music of The Callas had a much more full-on rock attack than any of the other bedwetters we had seen earlier that day. This made The Callas something of a new favourite. I also liked when the drummer took over the bass and the lady keyboardist replaced him behind the drum kit, standing photogenically and banging away on her instrument. I was nevertheless left with the feeling that The Callas have room for improvement – they may need a ball breaking manager to crack the whip and say to them: "Keep doing what you're doing – but do it better!"

At some point on Saturday afternoon I became separated from my beloved and, after drinking some unusually strong ales, I found myself in a very appreciative frame of mind. I drifted along to see The Just Joans for no better reason than that Mr Chris Gilmour mentioned them in his film treatment*. I went with low expectations but found their Scottish miserablism rather appealing. There was one song that had a chorus something like:

'If you don't pull
you'll go home on your own
if you go home on your own
you'll wake up on your own'

And so on. Oh wait, is this just a rehash of 'How Soon Is Now?'? Well imagine it being sung by two sadface Scots, one male and one female, and imagine the whole new dimension of misery being brought to it.

Then I went to see The Smittens. I always think of this lot as being the archetypal Indietracks band. For all they play surprisingly low down the bill, they are always one of the bands that the typical Indietracks attendee most wants to see. They are from the United States of America, have lovely teeth, and are rather perky. We took against them last year, but this year I found them more enjoyable. There is a cheery quality to them that makes them genuinely difficult to dislike (though I fear they would not go down too well if opening for Iron Maiden at Castle Donnington). Part of my change in sentiment came from one of their singers mentioning in passing that many of them bat for the other team – suddenly some of their more perplexing features made a lot more sense.

When I re-encountered my beloved again, she was a bit perplexed by my new appreciativeness. We nevertheless squeezed into the Chapel venue to see two acts. Firstly, there was Cineplexxx, some Argentinean guy's one-person band. He was playing today on his own, mostly acoustically, and proved to be a bit of a snappy dresser. The Chapel was a good place for him, as he looked a bit like Jesus, and we enjoyed his folky tunes. That he sang in foreign was also rather appealing.

The following Chapel act was White Town. It said in the programme that White Town had had an actual chart hit (albeit one we could not remember), something of a rarity for the underachieving Indietracks mainstream, so that piqued our interest. The Town turn out to be this one bloke who used to be in the Socialist Workers, and his tunes often nod to that world. He seemed not to have entirely left ultra-leftism behind - at one point he refused to play a song about Alain Delon, because Delon has apparently become a fascist since it was written.

I kind of liked White Town, but I found his lurches between acoustic songs and ones with big, loud, and pre-programmed electropop flourishes a bit awkward. When he finally played his hit ('Your Woman'), it sounded rather familiar, but it might just be that some bit of it has been sampled by a hip-hop act.

I was looking forward to seeing the Swedish indiepop sensations Love Is All, as the one track I heard by them sounded almost like post-punk with its screaming brass and relentless rhythm, but they had cancelled. Their slot was instead taken by Tendertrap, the current band of Amelia Fletcher (the singing economist and Queen of Indiepop). They seemed to have mastered the large indoor venue's hopeless acoustics and were able to bash out a good beat, but after a couple of songs it struck us that, basically, if you have heard one Tendertrap song you have heard them all. I started wondering if this applies retrospectively to the Heavenly tracks I think of as classics – do they only seem to have unique qualities because they are the ones I heard first?

And finally for Saturday, we had The Primitives, the recently reformed indiepop band of the late 1980s. I was really looking forward to seeing them, having loved them back in the day and greatly enjoying them when I saw them in their later years. But they turned out to be a big disappointment. They sounded lumpen and plodding, making me wonder if they had actually never been any good.

The best is yet to come.

image source

An inuit panda production

* It is called Glasgow Indie Eye-Spy but could more appropriately be entitled The Life and Opinions of Christopher Gilmour, Gentleman. I gather this project is currently in hiatus.

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