Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Wrong Kind Of Leaving

The Departure/The Brite Lites/Guile, Barfly, Birmingham, Tuesday October 2 2007, 8pm.

As your garrulous guide makes his way to the Barfly venue his thoughts are occupied with one question: does anyone remember The Departure anymore, let alone care? Their debut 2005 platter 'Dirty Words' garnered many a play on our mp3 player, so much so it made Parallax View's Top 30 for that year, but it was a notable commercial flop which led to the sudden exit of the band's lead guitarist and questions asked as to whether they'd be dropped by their label.

Surprisingly, then, find that the venue is fairly heaving, possibly tempted by the fact that the first 50 punters through the door got themselves a free 7", or maybe drawn in by two local bands playing in support. Cannock's Guile make a pleasing drone-rock racket as we weave our way to the bar, but sadly this is the last track of their set so we make a mental note to be Guile-d in more detail at a later date. Birmingham's The Brite Lites immediately get your lank-locked layabout worrying - to wit, surely it's not time again so soon for crew cuts to be back in fashion? There's something short-back-and-sides about their radio-friendly sound too, sounding like Ryan Adams attempting to plagiarise the Radiohead back catalogue, and the result is intermittently interesting and foot-tapping but towards the end you sense the interest around you starting to dim.

The Departure bound on stage in confident mood, and the new, almost impossibly fresh-faced, guitarist seems to settle down well enough in a set that is liberally sprinkled with tasters from their new album (due early 2008) plus the best stuff from 'Dirty Words' like 'Lump In My Throat' and 'Talk Show'. The new material sounds interesting and immediate, and there may yet be commercial mileage in their more accessible take on regurgitating the early 80s sound - in truth, they probably owe more to Depeche Mode than they do Joy Division and that could be an important distinction when trying to find their niche. The show seems to go down well with the crowd, anyway, so all the more curious that the group dispense with an encore despite hoarse entreaties to get themselves back on stage. Curfew or fuck-you issues? We're not entirely sure.

Still, have a bit of time to spare before the last train to sink down another pint as the Barfly club night slowly but surely whirrs into a flurry of activity. Upon leaving, however, your conscientious correspondent finds himself walking behind the band as they lug their equipment up stairs. It's clearly your helpful hack's seasoned roadie reflexes he falls back upon when one of their cases slips off and he picks it up in one fell swoop with a cheery 'whoops!'. Clearly overwhelmed by their evening's performance the band don't skip a beat, presumably having lost count of their number and mistaken your nonchalant nincompoop for a fifth member. At the top of the stairs, the singer turns with some bewilderment to find the said case handed over to him by a bemused blogger rather than a recognised compadre. Congratulating him on a good gig, we return his changed expression of utter disdain with our own practised shrug as we pace off in to the distance. We may have only been a member of The Departure for about seven seconds but we still know how to make a sharp exit.

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