Thursday, 18 October 2012

Long Live Flock & Roll - Straight Lines + Yearbook +Evarose Live at Camden Barfly

Straight Lines *****
Evarose *****
Yearbook ****1/2*

Barfly, Monday 15th October

I sit alone in the restaurant window. The rain chases down the glass. The spitting chimney red tail lights and jaundiced sodium yellow street lamps spray colourful, kaleidoscopic shards through the descending droplets. A Jaques Brel song drones in the background, the Gitanes smoke clings acridly to my damp woolen trenchcoat. 

No it doesn’t. 

This is Nando’s. 

In Chalk farm. 

I’m eating extra hot chicken and it’s pissing down. On a Monday. I need cheering up.

So, to The Barfly. For my favourite librarians and most alt of alt rockers Yearbook.

Yearbook ****1/2*
Being first on is always a bastard. I’m still, after thousands of gigs, so annoyed by the über-cool insouciance of hipster gig goers. Arrive late. Don’t bother with the support. Act cool. Oh, fuck off.

What’s wrong with openly loving music? Supporting music? Opening our eyes, ears and any other supplicant orifice to new stuff? Exciting stuff. Tomorrow’s headliners. We really shouldn’t mind about showing it.

As I say; a bastard being on first.

Thankfully there’s a good few handfuls (handsfull?) of folk who’ve been arsed enough to get their rear ends into London’s most bijou of venues early doors. And what a treat they get.

Kicking off with the heart stopping and emotive All Squares and Circles (how is it humanly possible to get so much emotion into a refrain of Yeah, Yeah Whoah? Genius), the Hampshire quartet set about business as if they’re playing to a packed hall six or seven times the size. Which, if there’s any justice in the world, I’m sure they will in due time.

I’m not sure if front man Andy Holloway plays up the slightly gauche librarian geek-chic thing or if he’s genuinely like that, but his quirky charm and embarrassed sardonic murmurings between tunes are beguiling and unaffected which in a business full of arrogance, cock waving, faux-bravado and peacocks is a refreshing change.

The short set is polished and skillfully delivered but charmingly and purposefully frayed and shambolic at times. There’s not a duff track in there. This is original music. Interesting music. Technical but not shoe-gazing. Mesmerising. And the perfect antidote to my Jacques Brel-infused melancholy. Love ‘em to death and am thoroughly enjoying seeing them in the humbler smaller venues before the inevitable escalation and progression they’ll surely achieve. But at least I’ll be able to say, ‘of course, I saw them back in….’

Here’s a vid of the wonderful Visionary.

Evarose *****
Still on a grinning high after Yearbook, I settled down with a restorative pint for Evarose. Open minded to a fault, I have to admit, the whole Paramore pap punk thing leaves me a bit cold and what I’d previously heard of the all girl Oxfordshire steroidal Girls Aloud didn’t really tickle my frenum.

I’d seen a reduced acoustic version of the band at Burnout festival and was hugely impressed by Dannika Webber’s incredibly powerful and pure voice and hoped it would expand with the full band.
This is where it all gets a bit awkward. They don’t do anything wrong. Webber’s voice is incredible, pitch perfect and powerful. But I’m left with the lingering, possibly unfair and definitely controversial thought that the all girl novelty thing has probably rose-tinted the earholes a little.

The playing is competent and tight. But that’s about it. It lacks variety. Space. Light. Shade. Everything’s delivered within a very narrow dynamic. Mostly in the same key. And pretty much all in the same kick botty tempo. And even the wünder vocals become a little wearing and predictable. There are no rhythmic diversions, breaks, drops or shifts. After a while, it’s a bit like being in a dense pine forest. Initially enchanting and exciting, but becoming stifling and even a little toxic. Need air. Please….gulp…

That all said, I’m not in their fan target market and I’m sure they’ll continue to seduce younger and more pop punk sympathetic crowds as they honestly go about their business.

A good effort tonight, but sandwiched between two bands of such high caliber was always going to be a tall order.

Straight Lines *****
So, on to the top piece of bread in tonight’s sarnie. Like Andy Holloway of Yearbook, in Thom Jenkins, Straight Lines have got a killer weapon in their front man. Although stylistically far from similar, both crooners are blessed with dog-whistle high natural voices (as Thom's a sheep farmer, I'm sure it comes in handy). And they both use their range adroitly and spectacularly successfully.

Farmer Thom is a likeable and alluring leader and is backed by a beautifully talented and tight band. They’re heavy when they need to be. Harmonically rich. Melodically sublime at times and, well, just a pleasure to be in front of.

There’s an innate celtic theme running wittingly or otherwise through much of their work. And it even veers towards early Thin Lizzy in parts which cracks faces and warms hearts from the front to the back of Camden’s favourite sweatbunker.

Although the music is often complex, it’s never inaccessible and leaving obvious (and lame) comparisons with Stereophonics aside bestrides rock and pop with aplomb.

There’s luckily so much talent in the UK at the moment and on tonight’s remarkable performance, Straight Lines and Yearbook can add themselves to the bunch of top bananas.

As I walked out into the north London Drizzle, I hurt from smiling. What a wonderful evening. There really is hope.

Now where are those Gitanes?

More tunes soon. Bwoooar!

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