Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Carling Backs Labels

And so your intrepid correspondent ventured through sub-Arctic conditions last night for the listening pleasure of the NME Carling Awards Tour (or whatever it's called). First up and bloody sharpish too were Franz Ferdinand, on the dot at 7.30pm, and delivering their Top 3 smasheroonie Take Me Out by 7.40. The band's success has already overtaken their opening slot here, which will have to make do as a teaser trailer for their upcoming solo tour. But on the evidence already provided by the six or seven songs played last night, they have the smarts, confidence and range to be major players on the British indie scene for a good while yet.

Next up were The Von Bondies, here to plug their Pawnshoppe Heart album, and presumably to improve their spelling. Last time I saw the VBs, Marcie was wearing a schoolgirl outfit when they supported recent sparring partners The White Stripes, and despite the fact they have commercially trailed in the wake of Jack and Meg since then, they appear in relatively confident mood. Given the consensus that after a couple of years of stripping rock music back to the basic building blocks of primal blues, there is a need to push things forward with something more constructive and forward-thinking again, the VBs appear to have opted to add a grunge element to their music. Only time will tell whether this is a wise move or not, although new single C'mon, C'mon is catchy enough to get within a knuckle's grazing of a berth in the top 20.

And our final epiphany for the evening came from The Rapture: God bless 'em for their Brady Bunch haircuts; for their insistence on propelling the sound of the cowbell into the twenty-first century and for the fact that the opening notes of their only-slightly-overrated album 'Echoes' made the entire Hot Hot Heat oeuvre pretty much redundant overnight. The tight deadline of the evening's proceedings encourages a sharp and urgent set from the dance-punkers, and the live experience plays to their strengths and helps gloss over their weaknesses. Damn it, there are even people dancing. Modern classic 'House Of Jealous Lovers' grabs the attention, but new single 'Love Is All' and the moody electro of 'Olio' provide the soul that keeps it. The ambience was slightly interrupted by the impact of a plastic pintpot on my left shoulder, but luckily this meant that the beer propelled forwards, drenching the girl in the off-the-shoulder white top in front of me. God, it's tough on the indie frontline.

I guess you could split the crowd into two separate factions: those old enough to drink, and those who came to see Funeral For A Friend. Given that I fall incredibly firmly into the former category I swiftly exited the joint before the nu-metal-band-the-NME-has-decreed-it's-OK-to-like came on stage. After all, love may very well be all this crippled soul ever needs, but making sure you get the train home on a long journey through a blizzard runs it a close second, if you ask me.

Meanwhile...Peel is worth catching this week, either live or through the online listen-again facility. The Thermals are in session tonight, and include a cover of a Breeders song, while tomorrow night's session comes from Brighton's Electrelane whose second (Steve Albini-produced) album The Power Out, in the shops Monday, sounds very promising from what I've heard so far. Electrelane also chip in with an unusual choice of cover for the Peel session: Roxy Music's 'More Than This' extending their repertoire.


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