Monday, October 04, 2010

Indietracks: Don't Be Afraid Of The Robot

Although I rose early on Sunday, financial embarrassment meant that I had to trek into nearby Ripley to obtain more funds, thus missing many of the early bands. The first thing we saw turned out to be M.J. Hibbett & The Validators. I have seen Mr Hibbett before, and have a somewhat problematic relationship with him, because some of his songs annoy me. I was particularly incensed by 'Merchant Ivory Punks', where he made fun of punk rockers who are stuck in this eternal 1977 time warp. Fair enough, but he was playing this at a festival of indiepop, one of the world's most conservative musical forms, where most of the acts would not have been out of place on a Sarah Records compilation from twenty-five years ago. It therefore seemed a bit pot-kettle to be scoffing at the lack of innovation in other musical genres.

On the other hand, there is something appealing about many of Hibbett's lyrical concerns: giant robots, people being eaten by dinosaurs*, vegetarianism, and opposing the Iraq invasion. Furthermore, one of his songs does make the important things that you should not disown the things you like just because they are not kewl. I should also point out that on an Internet message board he also recommended the rather good Return of Bruce Wayne comic. So maybe he is worthy of respect after all.

The Specific Heats were, for us, one of the hits of Indietracks 2009. That time round they were playing in the Chapel and proved so popular that we could not get in to see them, so we stayed outside to listen to their garage rock sounds, pressing our noses against the glass to get the occasional look. This year they were in the larger indoor venue and seemed to have had a massive turnover in membership. And they also seemed to have left behind the Sixties garage rock revivalism and instead gone all indiepop! Oh noes. But then they started playing more garagey stuff and we remembered why we liked them.

I was also struck by how good their drummer was, especially after the monotonous thumping from a certain previous band**. That said, this band is in great danger. From playing at Indietracks, they seem to be picking up indiepop stylings. Their between song banter is of the friendly apologetic type you get from the more usual of the festival's bands. The Specific Heats basically need someone to throw out all their Smittens records, make them wear dark sunglasses onstage and do nothing but snarl between songs. "Stick to the acid rock", this tough but well-meaning Svengali might say. "If you do or play anything twee I will batter you".

After a few other bands I came to what, with Everybody Was In The French Resistance…Now!, might have been one of the real finds of the festival. Standard Fare had not been a band I was planning to see – their name suggests a certain lack of imagination and there was nothing particularly exciting about their write-up in the programme. However, one of our pals recommended them to us, and as he had previously implied a certain fondness for Hawkwind he was clearly a man to be trusted.
Standard Fare
So what do you get with this band? Well, they are a three piece, with a drummer and gentleman guitarist and lady bassist. Both the guitarist and bassist do vocals. The songs had a certain angular quality to them and owed little or nothing to indiepop. The band were all very good at what they did, but I reckon the bassist (whose name is Emma Kupa) is the real star here. Not merely is her voice very distinctive (albeit not necessarily a classically good singing voice, being a bit strained but in a way that suggests character), her bass playing seemed a good bit more interesting than the dum dum dum dum you get from most bassists. She and the guitarist played well off each other, and the songs they played had some odd lyrical concerns – one song was introduced as being about genocide, and then it was, but not in a Slayer-esque way, more focussing on the people who have genocide done to them.

Anyway, I was very impressed by Standard Fare, and hope to take a punt on their album to see if they also deliver on record. In fact, not buying their album there and then is one of my big festival regrets.

An inuit panda production

* These appear in his rock opera, which he is touring to Edinburgh. Maybe you saw it in the Fringe Festival?

**This band, whose name I am not at liberty to reveal, set the percussion bar so low that I thought "mmm, great drumming" for every subsequent band.

image source


CarsmileSteve said...

and if you didn't catch Dinosaur Planet at the Edinburgh Fringe, we are shortly to embark upon a WORLD TOUR (we're going to Wales, it counts as a world tour is there's more than one country...):

ian said...

Wales is part of the world. Good luck, but make sure the robots and dinosaurs do not wreak havoc on the audience.