Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sins in the flesh

Envy And Other Sins/Johnny Foreigner/Kyte, Leicester Firebug, 1st March 2008

With Glastonbury rumour season in full swing and the mid-ranking festivals ekeing out their first announcements, to coincide with the release this week of the first bands on the bill of this August's Summer Sundae festival - Supergrass, The Coral, Simian Mobile Disco, Roisin Murphy, Lightspeed Champion and Jeffrey Lewis to name a few - the organisers put on A Taste Of Summer Sundae, a small gig after the fashion of last August's warm-up party featuring four bands set to play the new music Rising stage (well, three, with electroFoals-ish Tired Irie unfortunately pulling out due to the singer losing his voice), a way equally of raising interest in the lower reaches of the festival and boosting an often overlooked local live scene.

With one of the two local bands pulling out, Kyte are the representatives of a scene that is having one of its periodical slight raises in profile, with the Displacements and The Screening signed up for the post-Fratellis kids at one end and at the other the post-postrock 'sonic cathedral' likes of Her Name Is Calla, who supported iLiKETRAiNS towards the end of last year, and that band's next tour support, this youthsome five-piece who earned an 8/10 from the NME for their recent mini-album. They've had a single remixed by Maps, but where James Chapman comes on as reconfigured shoegaze Kyte, who we saw back at the end of 2006 third on a Charlotte bill utilising post-rock guitar delay to its fullest, are developing into their own skins. While not a slow-moving band, they start off near Slowdive and take in the landscapes of Jeniferever and Mew at their most stratospheric, maybe even the glacial textures of Sigur Ros. There's not much in the way of quiet-loud dynamics, though, just an atmospheric reach that wouldn't seem out of place the next time an natural world programming editor is looking for a coruscating background to a particularly breathtaking vista. If it makes this impression in a city centre bar at half eight on a Saturday night, given time and space to build further on their ideas they could develop into something epic.

Which, in an entirely different sense, already describes Johnny Foreigner. Held up by singer/guitarist Alexei's amp breaking down they may be, but within seconds of starting they've staked their claim to be the most exciting and energetic new band in Britain. There's a huge amount of underground interest surrounding the Digbeth trio following their mini-album of last October Arcs Across The City, and with every good reason. That record, inspired by the wilder end of post-punk, the early 90s US underground variously inhabited by Pavement, Q And Not U and Guided By Voices and the single-mindedness of a Sonic Youth yet retaining an invention and lightness of touch outside any idea of selling to Jo Whiley listeners that didn't make them seem out of place recent touring partners of Los Campesinos!, was good enough, but it's live where everything coalesces and explodes into a black hole of serrated edge ADD dance-punk. The opening one-two, as on that record, of Champagne Girls I Have Known and The End And Everything After, showcases their strengths, Alexei declamatory of vocal and ferocious of guitar whether indulging in die-cut, sixpence turning hyperactive stop-start riffage or (just about) more controlled unpretty patterns, while bassist Kelly is Kim Deal-imperious even when the pair are trading sung-screamed vocals and crossthreaded lines. Behind them drummer Junior somehow both pins the whole thing down and drives it on at warp speed, unless he's playing keyboard or setting off a loop. When not admitting they're attempting the "comedy rock band" banter stylings of the Young Knives, who they're about to spend what might well be a long month on tour with, three tracks from that album get played along with three new songs from forthcoming debut proper Waited Up Til It Was Light, which promise much the same grand scheme of iForward Russia! meeting the Dismemberment Plan uptown to wreak havoc on lesser water treaders, plus an assured cover of Pavement's Grounded apparently because "we don't have many slower songs". As closer Yr All Just Jealous weaves from melancholic mid-section to to colossal almost literal breakdown via a quote from dEUS' Hotel Lounge, it's apparent Johnny Foreigner have not only blown away everyone else on the bill but probably also whoever was playing at the Charlotte 300 yards or so away.

Which is a problem if you're in fellow Birmingham emigres Envy And Other Sins and you're headlining to an already sceptical clientele who only know of you from your major label earning victory in T4's Mobile Act Unsigned. In truth, they were far from the worst band in that beleaguring show's final stages and have been around for a lot longer than that standing would imply, their name being bandied about as ones to watch a couple of years ago thanks to support tours with Mew and British Sea Power. They were eccentrics then - Dickensian dress code, claims to have invented a new sport - and while there's still facial hair, waistcoats and cravats to go and a lampshade by the PA any audial incongruities have been smoothed out. Which is not to say they're terrible - they're kind of a Hoosiers gone right, with a similar ELO influence undeniable but also channelling a strain of British songwriting through the Kinks and Parklife to a more agreeably melodic end. While not as actively offensive as cause and effect might have led the casual observer to expect, though, they stood no chance on the night after what had gone before.


Blogger Ben said...

Johnny Foreigner sound very good indeed - should have known to trust and value the opinion of the scamps in Los Campesinos!...

1:57 am  

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