review archive

luxembourg / The Schla La Las / The Swear – Islington Bar Academy 7th September 2004

I’ve been playing luxembourg’s ‘What The Housewives Don’t Tell You’ incessantly since it sneaked through my letterbox a few weeks ago, but tonight is the official single launch at the freakishly clean and shiny Islington ‘I’m not dignifying that crappy lager with a name’ Bar Academy. Last week I thrilled to their performance flung out devil may care style in the appallingly carpeted work social club of those dastardly Sounds XP chappies. It was exciting enough to get me rushing back for more five days later.

I initially think the between bands music has been especially chosen by luxembourg as a kind of pre-emptive critical strike designed to show off their influences. There’s Suede and Morrissey, er Dubstar and hmm, Sleeper (I’m thinking, ‘Well, could be a kitchen-sink lyrics thing’). Then I realise this must be the venue’s idea of ‘indie’ background music. They’re playing some kind of ‘Best Of Britpop’ nonsense. At least I hope they are. I start feeling queasy at the idea of a band flaunting the combined influences of Echobelly and Skunk Anansie.

Twitchy towels at the ready
Happily, The Swear show no tendencies towards either of these bands’ oeuvres, preferring to plough that currently popular furrow of jerky, scritchy new wave art pop. Guitarist Andrew does a stiff-legged, wobbly-headed quiver dance, like artpunk bands of yesteryear. Funny how small movements can summon up an entire past era. Along with fellow guitarist and singer Tycie, he whips up a sound like a swarm of bees. They pile through a bundle of itchy, twitchy tunes with a spikey boy/girl dynamic, with the emphasis on grrrl.
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On ‘Japanese Pop Song’ Tycie hollers in a powerful, resonant voice whilst Andrew pitches in more lightly. Best of all is ‘High Rise’ (as featured on the first Angular Records Sampler) which is thundery and spindly, churny and squeaky in all the right places, whipping the backs of your legs with its twitchy towel of rhythm.
likinthewayyoulook'n'lookinthewayyoulike
Now, The Schla La Las are ladies that understand the power of a well-placed accessory. They know that likin’thewayyoulook ’n’ lookin’thewayyoulike does wonders for your confidence and thus gives you top pop performing superpowers. Tonight they’re dressed like rockin’ Pink Ladies in matching (always matching) red shirts and anchor-patterned skirts. The Schla La Las are ladies that understand the importance of making an entrance, ‘Are you ready…let’s go!’ they sing on ‘Get Ready’, as Piney and Katrin hand jive ferociously like rockin’ air hostesses.

They then proceed to blast through a delicious selection box of rumbling, roughed up melodies. There’s ace girls’ mag photostory grooviness in one song that goes something like, ‘I don’t care about your bad boy reputation/ I don’t care about your secret situation/ I’m the only one who can make you feel right…baybee come over tonite.’ Another one sung by Vicki and Delia sounds like a cross between one of Lee Hazlewood’s tall tales and a Burl Ives children’s song. Then there’s scuzzy garage that’s filthier than a slick of sump oil, but topped with multiple harmonies sprinkled on like hundreds and thousands.

The Schla La Las are ladies that understand that all the best bands have a theme song (e.g. The Banana Splits, Schwervon!) and wind up their show with their mighty, ‘Schlas Theme’. Sadly there’s no time for it to segue into The Violent Femmes’ ‘Add It Up’ like what sometimes happens, because luxembourg are waiting to play, it would be rude to hog the stage and of course The Schla La Las are (gum-snappin’, wise-crackin’, hop-rockin', tip-toppin’) ladies.

Delia- greatest shoes in world not shown.
This week I am mostly David from luxembourg
luxembourg are all posture and plenty of substance. Singer David is a bit Jarvis, a bit Morrissey, a bit Brett, but mostly he’s David from luxembourg, perfecting the art of pulling poses. He does a fantastic one during ‘Close-cropped’, singing ‘I want your three day old stubble’ (demonstratively holds up three fingers) ‘Dragged across my face’ (drags aforementioned three fingers across face). During ‘Relief’ he croons, ‘Are you aching to get some relief?’ whilst going weak at the knees then falling onto them. Meanwhile, on keyboards, Alex, enveloped in a furry gorilla-glam jacket atop a scrawled ‘Fucking Tourist’ t-shirt (sadly not ‘Fucking Florist’ as certain people misread) has perfected the keyboard player’s pout of extreme boredom (see also Ron Mael, Neil Codling), breaking cover only to hammer the keys in moments of high drama. The songs are full of the course of love never running smooth, smooth boys running rough, coarse boys roughing up the smooth. This is precision built pop with a nasty glint in its eye courtesy of Alex’s deranged squealing keyboards and Rob‘s twitching thrusting guitar throttling antics.
The squelching flashboy Hi-NRG romp of ‘Success is Never Enough’ contrasts with the delicate, swooning ‘Mishandled’, a song that gazes dry-eyed and sleepless from its tower-block window as David cracks open a fine falsetto. I find myself cocking an ear to catch the words, smart lines stacked up to create vignettes, expressing lust and disgust in equal measure. Don’t you love it when a band really makes you want to hear what they have to say? For encore ‘Making Progress’ with its gleaming chorus and ‘Popcorn’-esque keyboards, David works his way through its extended narrative section. As he laconically enunciates through the maelstrom, it’s impossible to make out this tale of consumerist meltdown, you need to listen to the record to appreciate that, but it’s glorious watching the band explode their way to the ending. In a world of shabby, scabby Libertines-lite interlopers, swoon with joy, for luxembourg are here to wrench you out of the gutter to gaze at the stars in their eyes.
Fucking Florist