Thursday, January 25, 2007

Every Rose has her thorn


Llan Clan take to the stage early - probably a good thing, too, as it's sure to be past their bedtime before long. The bilingual fivepiece are on the youthful side, y'see - long-haired drummer Tomos Ayres in particular can't be much older than fourteen, and it's proud parents who make up the first few rows.

But the sprightly indiepopsters have been personally selected to play by promoters Peppermint Patti for a reason, and whatever they lack in years (and occasionally in timing) they make up for in freshness and enthusiasm, closing with a heartwarming paean to their hometown Blaenau Ffestiniog. You see, Daily Mail readers - being a teenager isn't all smoking glue and sniffing crack. No, the kids are all right.

Whereas The Physicists are all wrong - but in a good way. The quartet, who count ex Bikini Kill star Tobi Vail amongst those they've impressed, are purveyors of thrashing, brattish punk songs that snarl and bite and are about "homosexuals and crack and dogs".

What really distinguishes them, though, is a guitarist who's keen to kick out warp speed AC/DC riffs and thereby divert them from towing the narrow riot grrrrl party line, and a gobby frontwoman with a sense of humour: "I just looked into the crowd and thought someone had their back to us. Then I realised it was their face. Is that bad?" Er... Anyway, The Physicists: it ain't rocket science, it's only rock 'n' roll - but I like it.

As if Sonic Youth weren't marvellous enough already, now it seems as though they can justifiably claim responsibility for effecting a 21st century entente cordiale between England and France. For Underground Railroad, whose members met in Paris but who have set up home in London, recreate the sound of the angry discordant Youth of the mid to late 1980s, just as they were working their way up to Daydream Nation.

There's a case for saying that guitarist Marion Andrau takes things a little too far into hero worship, Kim Gordon her role model in everything from dress sense to onstage movement to vocal style. After all, didn't the New Yorkers once say something about killing your idols? But I for one am glad that it's resurrection and not murder that's going on here, though their sound is murderous enough - a kicking, screaming and thoroughly satisfying racket.

And so to the headliner - not, as one wag at the bar downstairs puts it, Ross Kemp, but Underground Railroad's labelmate Rose Kemp, the daughter of Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior and Rick Kemp.

Two things are likely to dog the 22-year-old, whose album A Hand Full Of Hurricanes is released on One Little Indian early next month: firstly that her prominence is down to her parentage; and secondly, particularly given the fact that she has taken up residency in Bristol, that she is the new PJ Harvey. The first isn't anything she can control and so is grossly unfair; as for the second, she does at times court the comparison, but it's far too lazy to leave it there.

What tonight's show demonstrates is that Kemp has a raw talent of her own, most vividly apparent when she performs two solo songs (one of which, 'Fire In The Garden', can be heard on her MySpace page), sampling herself to create a choral effect, and later following them up with a breathtaking acapella song delivered from the front of the stage unassisted even by a microphone.

But it's a different matter when her backing band (consisting partly of members of one of her other groups, experimental doom-metallers VILNA) are involved; her voice is all too often submerged and lost beneath the muddy guitar sludge. Perhaps it's the fault of the sound technicians rather than Kemp's hairy cohorts themselves, but either way it's frustrating that this rough diamond is allowed little opportunity to shine.

Afterwards we're lingering downstairs before leaving when we catch Llan Clan guitarist Sion Jones being hoisted up onto someone's shoulders in order to unpin a bill poster as a keepsake. A spot of light-fingered liberation - and who could blame him? Apart, of course, from the Mail reader muttering "Damn hoodies" under his or her breath...


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