Dispatches from the tweeastern front
Brixton Jamm. 26nov09.
Phillip Serfaty is the King amongst his Olive Fields, wearing a stately moustache worthy of a regent. Around him is his band of players; his occasional issuing of a musical direction between songs indicating the fact that they are constantly shape-shifting moons twirling around his gravitational pull. They take folk-pop at a gentle pace, allowing Serfaty’s captivating lyricism to be the main attraction. His voice is also one that demands attention, pitched between Jeffrey Lewis’s thirsty drawl and Calvin Johnson’s drowsy bass. Their final song, in particular, sounds like a Hidden Cameras 7” might if you pressed ever so gently upon it with a finger, reducing it’s r.p.m. to 38/39ish.
Following Serfaty’s bounder’s mo, Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic’s Tom manages to round out the full facial hair set by sporting an Eavis-style chin beard every bit as ramshackle and frothy as his band’s brash pop style. They wear their influences, such as Arcade Fire and Architecture in Helsinki, on their sleeves, but with those sleeves moving around the stage constantly switching instruments, it all blurs into something distinctly English (one song appearing to rather sweetly segue from a mention of “racism” to discussing the benefits of “a cup of tea” within a couple of lines) and very much theirs.
Coming in from Leeds, This Many Boyfriends are on only their seventh gig, and yet their third guitarist. Despite this they appear to have come a long way from their first gig, where two of their three songs were Ballboy covers. Thankfully, while taking on the spirit of Gordon McIntyre’s outfit, they have developed far beyond being a copyist turn. They retain a greenness, but charmingly so, singer Richard exuding nerves prior to their first number, stating how they weren’t confident of being able to follow OMAMA, nor of being the only band on the bill without a ukulele in their arsenal.
Yet that first number, I Don’t Like You Cos You Don’t Like The Pastels, is as powerful a statement as the heftily underlined “WE ARE NOT TWEE” that ends their online biography. All five players line up across the front of the stage, with the simple, effective rhythms from stand up drummer Lauren married to a cascading jangle, potent harmonies and the occasional performance ruse, such as Richard reading a random page of Marx during What I Know About Communism. A terrific performance on the road, three points away from home without doubt.
Yet if This Many Boyfriends win the battle, Allo Darlin’ have probably won the indie-pop wars in 2009. Not that indie-pop types have wars, the flowery and twee not exactly making for the most imposing battalion. If the genre had it’s own awards, then Allo Darlin’ would be a shoo-in for best newcomer, with best single also wrapped up. Henry Rollins Don’t Dance, about a punk rock boyfriend who refuses to get amongst it to Dancing Queen or the Grease megamix, attracted attention from newspapers, big radio and the fanzine community, and they are now signed up to the always excellent Fortuna Pop label. Rough Trade’s recently released ‘Indie Pop 09’ compilation is frankly incomplete without it.
For sure, the lyrics occasionally dip towards the trite (“when my baby holds my hand, it’s like heaven on land”) but it is all in keeping with their heartily sunlit demeanour. “I don’t know when we turned into a party band” says group leader Elizabeth Darling after several high-tempo numbers leave her blowing air off her bottom-lip up towards her facial glow. Thing is, they only really have a couple of slower numbers, and neither are exactly giving Low a, err, traipse for their money. Bands should play to their strengths though, and Allo, Darlin’s is, quite clearly, to give their joyous, guiltless veneer a Shangri-La shimmer.
Allo, Darlin' @ MySpace
This Many Boyfriends @ MySpace
Of Mice And Mental Arithmetic @ MySpace
King & The Olive Fields @ MySpace