The Xcerts ****1/2*
Our Black Heart, Camden, 21st July 2014
It's hot. Bloody hot. Hotter than a bus driver's polyester-clad arse. With extra napalm dolloped in his cleft for good measure. So, it's rather apposite we're all gathered in front of one of the UK's hottest bands who also happen to be one of the most enduring, hard working, honest, talented and integrity-soused bands in the land too.
So it's great to see the dingy atelier that is Our Black Heart jammed to the dripping rafters with glowing folk desperate to share the hot love.
Kicking off with the monumental and narratively thought-provoking Cool Ethan and catapulting straight into a breakneck version of Scatterbrain, messrs Macleod, Smith and Heron have the sweating, writhing masses eating out of their bath-wrinkled dripping hands. The crowd reaction is as hot as the stultifying air temperature and the shaggy, shiny Macleod looks genuinely taken aback in the full face of the fireball of love and support.
The set continues apace taking in back catalogue bangers Do You Feel Safe? which stretches the larynxes of just about every member of the joyous congregation and the rowdy poptastic syncopated splendour of I See Things Differently which gets feet tapping, heads bobbing and faces cracking.
But it's the introduction of a newbie that gets moist hairs standing to attention. Pop Song is simply bloody fantastic. The true marriage of grunge, noise, rock and, of course, pop. If this, coupled with the astonishing new release Shaking In The Water, is anything to go by, the long-awaited new album will be rocketed straight into the rack marked classic.
The perfectly balanced (if a little short for a headline stint) set grabs the genitals, massages the cerebellum and pours kerosene onto flaming emotions with hyper-infectious and raucous renditions of the anthemic Crisis In The Slow Lane and The Ric Ocasek-influenced Carnival Time both with their huge, throbbing refrains and sing-a-longs.
Gum gives us all a bit of breathing space before the absolutely splendid, heart-melting and final triptych of the tear-jerking pared down genius, Aberdeen 1987 (with everyone in the room belting back every work, much to the oft taciturn Macleod's obvious delight), the aforementioned stonking new single Shaking In The Water and the oo-oo imbued genius of Slackerpop wrings every last drop of sweat, love, and emotion out of the drenched and thoroughly sated love puddle of acolytes.
This trio are everything that's good about British music. In fact, fuck it, just music in general. They weld together energy, melody, pathos, joy, challenge and sublime songcraft into truly superb, original and honest works of art.
They eschew the bullshit attitude and clichés that so many pusillanimous, plastic and scene bands embrace and regurgitate with alarming regularity. They do it with heart. With passion. With every fucking fibre of their tour wearied beings.
Their dedication, application and passionate pursuit of giving pop a proper pair needs wider recognition and exposure. Which, if there's any justice in the world won't be too far away.
What a ball soupy, scorching, searing and unforgettable night. What a band. What a joy.