Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bling The Noize

Mika Miko/No Age, The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham, Saturday June 23 2007.

Your correspondent has previously heard dark mutterings about the denizens of The Sunflower Lounge: that there is terminal trendiness therein, a tendency to sneer down upon anyone not wearing the right sort of retro trainers and an atmosphere more cliquey than a posse of paparazzi let loose on a Paris Hilton prison shower lesbian love-in. On the three occasions Dead Kenny has previously ventured there he encountered a Fatty Arbuckle-style Wild Party, a clumsy girl in piratical attire and the unalloyed joy of The Clash's 'Tommy Gun' blaring out at top volume (after the Emily Haines show at the Glee Club), so it's with an open mind that your intrepid hack enters the bar for his first proper gig at the venue.

The gigs are held in the downstairs area, with a 'Staff Only' sign on top of the door cunningly designed to repel those not in the 'in-crowd'. How exciting it is then to see through this ruse and get to spy on the sartorial secrets of the Second City's hip and happening citizens at close quarters. Your furtive scribe first sees the girl taking cash on the door, and she's...well, not wearing very much, actually. But then hot girls in summer dresses is a look that never goes out of fashion, n'est-ce-pas? Elsewhere, silly hats are de rigeur, and there are various sightings of over-sized specs (blame Hot Chip); flip-flops (someone very confident about the state of the loos, clearly) and (we shit ye not, Sherlock) this season's most happening fashion fusion to wear at an underground rock gig - a Melt Banana t-shirt bedecked with a gaudy gold bling necklace! You'll all be wearing it next summer, or my name's not Trinny and Susannah.

And yet my nascent career as a fashion detective is put on hold with the emergence on stage of No Age, two dudes from the City Of Angels intent on making heavenly noise from their drums/guitar axis. Dean Spunt (stop spluttering at the back!) bashes the skins and sings his heart out, while Randy Randall (his real name...we think!) concentrates on churning out the chords as well as helping out here and there with the vocal duties. The result is a really very impressive noise but with enough pop sensibility (they cite Squeeze amongst their influences) to come on like the adorable lovechild consequence of The Beach Boys climbing Brokeback Mountain with Fugazi (erm...time to resit your Biology exam, methinks - Ed.). Their songs sometimes hit grooves that other bands would luxuriate in for extended breaks, but these No Age fellows keep everything commendably brief, leaving the audience always wanting something more, so think of them as the My Bloody Valentine that wouldn't have brought Creation Records to their knees and seek out and worship the best new band of 2007 to date.

It isn't Mika Miko's fault that their nominally headline set feels like something of an anti-climax, just a reflection that their entertaining high-energy cocktail of riot-grrl and shouty punk-funk lacks the explosions of epiphany that peppered their support-act's set. They seem like fun girls with the right sort of attitude (when your clumsy correspondent accidently nudges the bassist's breast as she makes her way towards the stage he is met with an amused smile rather than a stern lecture on how the angle of his drinking arm was a subconcious reflection of sexist attitudes in a masculine society), with some good songs and a neat gimmick (one of the singers yelps into a mic that's been converted from a bright red telephone receiver, giving a distorted effect). Constantly watchable and with an enthusiasm that's genuinely infectious all they really lack is one or two songs that could really raise the ante amongst a consistent set of material that on this showing doesn't quite catch fire.

This doesn't stop some of the youths in the audience play-wrestling near the front, although we trust their retro trainers didn't get too scuffed, and the guy with the flip-flops escaped without having his toes fractured. As for your correspondent, he enjoys the show so much he buys a bandana, as the nu-rave disco blares out on Mika Miko's departure. Everybody's getting down, and these cool cats may wear some crazy clothes but the inclusive and fun atmosphere engendered makes for one of the best value gigs in the Parallax View calendar year so far.

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