Thursday, June 23, 2005

The FutureNow

"It's not me, to make a fuss
It's just that the water's cold and I can't feel my legs"

I don't mean to start with an apology, but I feel it necessary: I'm sorry about Vitriol #1 that appeared earlier this week. It's been deleted from The Matrix Data Banks as its not really me to let things like that out. When Deep Thought powers up the output belongs in a place in my head, not in public. Thus, I think the above quote, lifted from The Cooper Temple Clause (where the hell are they?), sums up the way I was feeling. I've come up with the excuse that I'm suffering from some form of post-Who trauma at present, not knowing what to fill my Saturdays (or life?) with.

Anyways, as previously alluded to, I visted Cardiff Barfly for the first time in ages to watch a gig on Tuesday. What follows is my twopennyworth opinion:

Xfm Xposure: The Rakes/ Martini Henry Rifles/ Captain Black
Cardiff Barfly, Tues 21st June

Upon venturing down to the sweaty environment of Barfly upon the hottest day of the year so far, or since yesterday at least, I was firstly taken aback by the amount of people present. My sources had informed me that they weren't expecting a great crowd, hence my place on the guestlist, and, at the end of the day, who really wants to be stuck beneath ground with no windows when its sweltering outside? The answer: quite a few people, since Xfm is Cardiff for a short period. What's more, they've bought a few friends along to say Hi.

First up on the bill were Captain Black, a three-piece post-punk Indie trio who reminded you of the Pixies in places, and a whole host of other bands in the others. Obviously suffering from the problems of "people to cool to come close to the front" syndrome, the band did their best to entice the audience, securing two ardant fans and not letting them both pee at the same time. Slightly harsh, but anything that manages to make your band seem popular has gotta be a good idea. The band themselves rattled through a number of interesting tracks, often starting in one form and then changing into a different beast halfway through to keep things interesting. Add in the singer's knack for interchanging between singing and angrily shouting the lyrics on a line-by-line basis and they evoced a memory of Captain-era iDLEWiLD in this reviewer. In fact, if they'd have ended their set with the penultimate song, a touching ballad involving just man, guitar and voice, I'd have been even more interested in them. It was a shame that everything was ruined then by the last song, when, as the singer collapsed on stage, writhing around like Kurt used to, it became crushingly evident that rather than wanting to be their own band, they actually just wanted to be another Nirvana-wannabe. Shame.

The first encounter I had with the Martini Henry Rifles was on my twenty-first birthday a couple of years ago, when they played a DJ set at Clwb and were thoroughly dull, playing only songs they wanted to hear and that they thought were funny. Moreover, from that, and the performance tonight, the lasting image you get of the band is that they obviously think their the most important thing in the world, if not the Universe, since they swagger around with the air that they should be headlining proceedings. Fair enough, there's enough of the local Indie crowd here to back up that claim, so it's a shame then that you come to realise that they're just a plie of tosh. The songs are hectic and unmemorable, usually involving one member twidling a knob on a synthesiser, one member playing something frantic and singing, sorry, shouting, something probably quite obscene down the microphone whilst the other charges into the crowd to give everyone intimidating looks. Granted, the fact that one of these charges almost resulted in your reviewer having his eye flicked out by a trailing microphone stand, but I'm afraid that arrogance, intimidating stares and subscribing to the "swearing is cool" scheme don't make up for decent songs here, even if they probably think that they're being really cutting edge. Couple that with the fact that one of the band looks like the guy from Tears for Fears who know one remembers, and they start to loose their 'cool' edge. It's also a sorry state of affairs when the only positive you can write about a band is that they best thing they played was in the last two minutes, when they'd effectivly left the stage and the synthesiser was mimicing the beginning to REM's Electron Blue.

And so we came to The Rakes, just as I was about to lose hope and go home to listen to Together Alone and Siamese Dream and remember how good music can be. From what I'd heard and read on the band's website I was expecting an ultra-serious, sharp-suited lot that looked, and sounded, somewhere between Interpol being fronted by Alex from Franz Ferdinand. This was backed up by the imposing height of the microphone stands that had been set up. Another band with a 'towering' personality I thought. It was much to my surprise, and pleasure, that when the band emerged they reminded me more of The Housemartins in their look than Franz Ferdinand. That thought continued as they played through their first few tracks, all bouncy rhythms and catchy melodies that finally got the people moving. Introducing one song as 'a nice romantic one for the ladies' was a bit of a mistake though. It was hardly Snow Patrol's Run, but then again their really not that type of band. It was also refreshing to see a singer who obviously enjoyed being where he was: all silly hand movements, witty asides between songs and a knowing glint in his eye that he wasn't to be taken too seriously. Nowhere near the 'bit-of-a-gimp' persona someone had previously mentioned.

The problem with seeing a band first-hand like this though is that you never really get the chance to engage with the lyrics as, nine times out of ten, you can't actually pick them out, and this was a shame as I'm sure they had some interesting things to say. For that, I'll have to wait for the album but for now it seems as though The Rakes's star is definately on the ascendance if the hyper-pogoing crowd is anything to go by. And why shouldn't it be? They've got a sound that's popular at the moment and an individuality that works to set them aside from all of the other bands in their field. It'll be interesting to see how they come to differ themselves from their peers, as they're similar to both the jerky, angular sound of The Futureheads, the current art-rock crowd (Franz, Bloc Party) and the wave of sub-Clash revivalists (Dead 60s, Hard-Fi) around at the moment, but I look forward to tracking their progress. What's more, I look forward to the album, and even would've bought a t-shirt if they weren't so darn pricey!

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