Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fab Macca thumbs aloft?

The Maccabees/The Rumble Strips, Leicester Charlotte, 21st April 2007

After catching half of the set closer by a passionate solitary acoustic guitar wielder who turns out to be Derek Meins, former singer with briefly hyped Scottish New Rock Revolution coattail riders Eastern Lane whose solo work I'll have to look into further on this short evidence, not to mention the personal achievement that comes from yet again being ignored by clipboard-wielding street teamers collecting email addresses, a band take the stage who might have done very well in terms of ticket sales had they been headlining. If The Rumble Strips are known for anything it's the continual comparisons to Searching For The Young Soul Rebels-era Dexys Midnight Runners, the soul-punk voice of Charlie Waller backed by a two-man brass section, with the soul power prophesising replaced by a very Noughties Brit-indiepop submerged melancholy, but their set has hidden depths that equally hint at Northern Soul, new wave and fifties rock'n'roll, one song in particular bearing no little resemblance to Waller's previous employment in Vincent Vincent & The Villains. However, four songs in trumpeter Henry Clark launches into the mournful note over a rumble of tom-toms that signifies debut (and next) single Motorcycle and the place, not to put too fine a point on it, goes apeshit. While Waller doesn't quite hit every high spot along the way, on Motorcycle he excels, pulling off the pivotal huge held note before everyone charges towards the finish, not least the extra fifth live member who switches between bass and pummelling the hell out of a single drum. The elegantly dishevelled Waller is not a man of many words but he's clearly relishing the reaction, pausing a couple of times between songs to shake the hands of people at the front before launching into another mod-pop shakedown at full throttle. It occurs to me as No Soul closes their set in a welter of energetic self-belief and both backing vocal mikes being knocked over that they could easily cross over, if the young pop audience will take to this sort of set-up.

It also occurs to me that when the headliners come on I need to be nowhere near the front for fear of my personal safety.

What The Maccabees do isn't really groundbreaking, it's fair to say. In fact, in terms of this decade it's hardly original, betraying signs of the ongoing post-punk revival - rapid clean guitar strokes, heavy ride cymbal, skipping bass, resolutely British accented vocals about the everyday, Orlando Weeks not totally unlike the Rakes' Alan Donohoe. Forthcoming debut album Colour It In is as wearing over its course as it is excitable just because with a couple of exceptions it's all like that, lacking much of the cleverness and musical subtleties of those who've properly transcended the mini-genre. What they do have is a kinetic energy and tightness born of having done this live thing pretty much non-stop for a couple of years. Their audience respond in kind, three glasses going flying before Weeks has had a chance to start singing, and the night is liberally scattered with crowdsurfing and stagediving from all vantage points. Weeks himself is an edgy, active frontman, often seeming lost in his own band's maelstrom, while lead guitarist Hugo White sings along even when not required to and often ventures ahead of the monitors to let those at the front grab at his instrument. Nothing much in the set really constitutes a let-up in pace until closing with highlight to date First Love, much of which Weeks doesn't feel the need to sing on when everyone else is doing it for him. Coming back on (unfortunately too late for the bloke who was conclusively out on his feet and having to be manhandled past me to the bar seating) for a couple of B-sides having exhausted the album, it's clear the band are genuinely relishing that their music is causing this reaction, having already told the throng that they were better than their adopted home town crowd in Brighton a few days before. Whatever the see-through nature of the primary influences, you'll do well to find a young band more infectiously adored on the live circuit.


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