Monday, January 23, 2006

StrangeTime for heroes


Uh-oh! Embarrassing dad x3 alert! By day (one suspects) a high school teacher, a solicitor and a tax inspector, but by night The Disciples Of Tone. The only concession to showmanship might be the vocalist / guitarist's green Teddy Boy jacket, but it's Friday night and they're intent on cutting some rug.

And what does this public recapturing (or at least recapitulation) of youth through songs called 'The Ice Cream Man' and 'Psychedelic Kid' sound like? A bit of The Jam, a bit of The Kinks - not particularly disagreeable at times. But then at others The Disciples Of Tone do nothing to challenge the ageist "truism" that rock 'n' roll is a young man's game.

Worse in many ways are Dedd Zebra - not least because of the name. Tight and proficient, undeniably, but unfortunately precisely the sort of band that made Pete's Going Deaf For A Fortnight project such an endurance test ie nondescript and seemingly adept at making what can be thrilling unfeasibly dull. It doesn't help that neither singer can seem to hold a note.

One song ends in such incredibly bombastic style that I'm expecting that to be it for the set - but no, there's more. It's like 'The Return Of The King', and I'm left impatiently willing it to draw to a close. Uncharitable I know, but that's the way it is.

For StrangeTime, tonight's gig is the biggest challenge to date: their first headlining slot, and the first time they've been called upon to play for longer than the usual half an hour. It's a challenge they meet head on with aplomb.

It's a measure of their gradually growing self-confidence that the set-list is now no longer set in stone but manipulated subtly and effectively anew each gig, while three of tonight's opening four songs are relatively recent compositions.

Sure, songs like 'Interference' would benefit in terms of impact by being abbreviated, others ('Doppelganger', for instance) are lyrically a bit too simplistic and cut 'n' dried, the band are still predominantly static on stage, and the concerns voice between songs about the sound quality betray a residual nervousness.

But then you can't run before you walk, and it's not so long ago that StrangeTime weren't even crawling, having played live for the very first time last July. The vocals are powerful, the instrumentation inventive and in the likes of 'Dressing Up' and 'Mundane' they have songs that can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Not something you encounter too often on the local toilet gig scene - a fact that the vast majority of those assembled (a sizeable audience) evidently recognise.

If the gig marks the beginnings of a buzz surrounding the band, then it'll be richly deserved.


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