Friday, March 20, 2009

Genuine Contenders

The Boxer Rebellion/Guile, 444Club@The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham, Saturday March 14 2009, 9pm.
The Get Out Clause/Out In The Crowd/StRANGEtIME, Dragon Bar, Barfly, Birmingham, Saturday March 7 2009, 7.20pm.

If The Boxer Rebellion were dumped by Alan McGee's Poptones for being bedwetters does that make them Britain's Best Kept Secretions? In an era of 'landfill indie' the multinational group's strobelight anthems have proved stubbornly non-biodegradable, but there's a danger in these over-blogged times that the backstory (self-financed record is released digitally and breaks into Billboard Top 100 and ITunes Top10) obscures the fact that the music ('Union'), no matter what the format or means of distribution, is arguably the most impressive presentation of contemporary rock since Kings Of Leon's 'Because Of The Times'.

The weird thing about their live show is that stirring lead single 'Evacuate', despatched early on in proceedings, has possibly the most muted impact, with the slower-burning material like 'Soviets'; 'Forces' and 'Misplaced' seeming to fire the imagination of an interested crowd. We almost started smoking just so we could wave our lighters, and even minus the female backing vocals 'Flashing Red Light Means Go' still accelerated our emotions on the night.

If the headliners supplied big enough music to headline Glasto (or at least earn a Mercury Music Prize nomination) mention should also be made of main supports Guile, who hail from Cannock and knocked the Staffs out of us with their hypnotic, hard-driving rock music providing regular surges of melody and mayhem to glorious effect. If somebody would be as good as to give them enough time and money to make great records, these guys have it in 'em, we reckon.

The week before, we visited the Dragon Bar (upstairs in the Barfly building) for the first time, to catch a varied bill and get our first fix in 2009 of StRANGEtIME's mad dog rock. Kate Finch & Co. are definitely becoming more prog-metal show-by-show, an approach suiting some songs better than others, but overall the progress is undeniable. Elsewhere on the bill, a young female trio Out In The Crowd played radio-friendly harmonies and nuanced song compositions staggeringly proficient and mature for their years, more like 'Celebrity Skin' era Hole than 'the female McFly' their MySpace page promised/threatened. Even better were The Get Out Clause, whose powerful guitar noise was as impressive as their headgear was lamentable (we'd gladly take our hats off to 'em, if they promise to do the same), so there's really no excuses for not catching up with 'em soon.

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