review archive

Easter Upstairs At The Garage July 13th 2002

Back in the mists of time, rummaging in the 7”s box in Backs records, Kitten came across a delicious slice of vinyl wrapped in a pink and white striped paper bag which turned out to be ‘Inside’ by 14 Iced Bears. There were gigs, John Peel sessions and more records, jangling, wistful, sweetly psychedelic. There was also a packet of biscuits, although the band would rather you didn’t mention them, they were trying to play down the twee thing. That was then.

A few months ago, Rob ex-Bears singer told Kitten he was doing a tour of the East coast in the States ‘cos the kidz were krazy for The Iceys out there. It’s true. A rummage around on the web shows a lot of belated Yank interest in the band. But we’re not here to discuss the past, go to Timebombs for that. Tonight’s Strange Fruit sees Rob playing with his new band Easter.

mellow harmonies
The first song is kind of Gram Parsons, all chiming guitars and drawl. It’s so nice to hear Rob’s voice again, sweet and countrified, backed by some mellow harmonies, dressed up in a check shirt with gold thread running through it. Hey (country) Rock ‘n’ Roll! Things get more rockin’ in a smokin’ Beachwood Sparks/Rockingbirds way, as the guitarist and only fairly young looking member of the band adds some super spangling sounds. Hang on, what’s this? It’s ‘Balloon Song’ chugging along in a pleasing countried up incarnation, I was trying not to mention 14 Iced Bears, but if you’re going to play old songs like this I can’t help it. Anyway, it sounds good and fits in perfectly, I’m sure anyone listening who doesn’t know it hasn’t noticed the join.
super spangling sounds

There’s a song called, possibly, ‘Sweetest Star’ with a heart melting melody that summons up the woozy bleached out sparkle of Ultra Vivid Scene’s poppier moments (maybe because the dj played ‘Special One’ earlier). Above the speaker stack a solitary silver star (maybe left over from the last all-dancing Actionettes fandango) twirls gently on a thread, unintentionally providing the perfect visual accompaniment to the song which ends in some cool squiffy Iggy riffing.

We get another blast from the past with the beautiful, gentle ‘Hey You’, made more eye-dampening with the added touch of warblesome slide guitar. It’s a reminder of what lovely, simple touching songs 14 Iced Bears were capable of. Kitten has always believed Rob’s a poet just for the line in ‘Surfacer’, ‘Lived on the beach today, sun-burned upon the blue waves that spill.’

For a moment, Kitten starts wondering if Strange Fruit might be in danger of turning into a nostalgia fest, what with June Brides re-surfacing the other month and all, but these old songs seem valid in this new context, and besides they deserve to be heard, it’s not like the world overdosed on them first time round. Anyway, it’s not like we’re dragging out the hideous rotting corpses of groups we’d all hoped were buried for good long ago (ie: ‘80s revival ‘Here & Now’ tour, Clare Grogan, what are you doing? We at least expected more of you) and trying to pretend we‘re at the school disco again.

So bollocks to that nostalgic, revival shite, Easter shower us with lovely country-rocking gems, dust motes in sun rays. The new songs are ace, the old songs have been given a boost. They finish with ‘World I Love’ fizzing, sparking, pop art psychedelic. ‘Wake up in the arms of the world I love. WAKE UP!’

country-rocking gems
[top of page]