Thursday, April 21, 2005

Tom Vexed

Tom Vek/Clor/Envelopes, Birmingham Bar Academy, Wednesday April 20 2005.

Emerging from the ashes of The Nicotines and hailing from Stockholm, Paris and, um, York, Envelopes open up the night's festivities. No need for an interval crowdwatch tonight, as the guy who shoved past Dead Kenny to get to the bar is the lead singer, and the hapless oaf who needed help from about six different people to order his (free) drink turns out to be the guitarist. Perhaps they should be excused their random vagueness on the basis that they're struggling with the language - thankfully, now living in Yorkshire (as of February), this shouldn't apply for long.

Musically, for the most part, they offer old-skool C86-style amateur-hour indie, albeit with a clutch of driven tunes and a rowdy edge that reveals their love for The Pixies. Vocal duties are shared between the aforementioned ill-mannered loon and a tiny French girl who looks about twelve, the loon appearing slightly cross-eyed, as if keeping one eye on Dead Kenny and the other on the exit door, and your correspondent would therefore like to believe his own skulking presence is adding a pleasingly psychotic edge to the evening's performance. The Envelopes, then: shambling indie retards but they still get the Dead Kenny seal of approval. When they learn how to buy their own drinks, they may even prove dangerous.

Next up, Clor don't seem quite young or photogenic enough to be able to pogo over the heads of the large number of bands peddling similar choppily-rhythmed chewns up the charts. In fact, Dead Kenny mistakes the lead singer for Tom Vek's roadie, and his curly barnet is similarly ominous - think Toploader, think Cud, think Cast - it's not exactly a passport to longevity in the rock pantheon, is it? Still, with songs as good as the new single, Love + Pain (out in stores on Monday) they seem determined to fight the odds with commendably stiff upper riffs.

Tom Vek is quite possibly the most important pop star to emerge in Britain for some time, if only for the fact he has the nerve to get away with the exact look - John Denver if he was a missing Ramones brudda - that Dead Kenny used for his first student library card back in 1982. From time to time, music journalists despair of a sterile scene and urge young wannabes to retire to their garages and create a racket of their own and Vek is one of those rare creatures that actually stopped slacking and went out (or rather, stayed in) and did precisely that. The result being We Have Sound a warped blend of off-kilter lyrics and hypnotic beats that is so brazenly effective it should have LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy crying in his sleep.

From the start, Vek pumps up the volume with 'CC (You Set The Fire In Me)' before ditching his trademark specs in favour of the current Dead Kenny model and launching into crowdpleasing debut single 'If You Want', then bringing us into his confidence with 'A Little Word In Your Ear'. The middle part of the set is beleagured with what could be termed 'We Have Sound Problems' as the transition between DIY garage perfectionism and a live band gets trickier with 'The Lower The Sun', which after two attempts finally gets abandoned amidst much comical exclamations of 'Fackin' 'Ell!' from a temporarily unplugged TV. Luckily, he gets it out of his system with a cathartic rendition of 'If I Had Changed My Mind' which has a similarly anarchic spark to The Fall at their best, and the rest of the set continues in this sweaty, throbbing vein until he bids us an ironic farewell with single-of-the-year contender 'I Ain't Saying My Goodbyes' (any tune that reminds Dead Kenny of New Fast Automatic Daffodils gets immediate preferential treatment in these matters).

Tom apologies again for 'the technical problems' but the biggest moan of the night (aside from the exasparated manager(?) of Envelopes repeatedly trying to explain to the guitarist that all he needs to do is show his pass to the bar staff and ask for 'beer, water or coke') is the ridiculously static audience - if you want to stand around looking ordinary why not find yourself a bus stop, huh?


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