review archive

Luxembourg / Rhesus / Video Club / International Karate Plus / Baby Shambles
The Metro, 4th June 2005

Oh the joyous jolt of the unexpectedly brilliant support band! International Karate Plus – hmm the name vaguely rang a bell, but you know, first on, playing to a sparse, none to interested audience – pfft, whatever. But hey! International Karate Plus defy all the odds and are brilliant. After two songs, I’m grinning happily, they’ve made my night already. It’s obvious that these three blokes in their specially matching tee-shirts (which spell out ‘I’ ‘K’ and ‘+’) know what the damn hell they’re doing, something you’d think was a prerequisite for climbing onstage, but scarily often isn’t. It’s a relief to find a band with a grip.

First off, we’re bludgeoned by a scratchy, chunkily riffin’ ditty that brings to mind The Yardbirds ‘Stroll On’. Then there’s an itchy poppy song (Glances’?) with rumbling, circling bass that makes me think of The Jasmine Minks, righteous intentions and fired up tunes.

"I know what the damn hell I'm doing, me."
"Er...me too." The IK+ sound is a perfect hybrid between scuffed mod-pop (Jasmine Minks, Television Personalities) and scuzzing Yank grunginess. There are some very Dinosaur Junior moments (check out ‘Ghosts’ for a pure ‘Bug’-era sparkling slacker buzz), not least due to Richard Arnold’s Mascis-type whine. These are hardcore kids with a canny knack for sly pop tunes, veering between The Buzzcocks and The Pixies by way of Husker Du. Single ‘Nexus In A Chain Of Thought’ see-saws and swoons so cutely that at the end we rush to buy it and take turns clutching it to our hearts. Best of all, it still sounds great the next day. Yeah IK+! I found a new band to like.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Video Club are various Art Goblins johnnies, there’s that one who looks like Jamie Theakston’s evil goblin soul made flesh and that chubby one with curly hair, and a bloke in a creepy plastic mask that makes him look like Begbie from Trainspotting. Maybe it’s a Begbie from Trainspotting mask. They dress in frock-coats and frills and term themselves ‘Regency Hardcore’. This is a great phrase and frock coats are always cool. These are Video Club’s good points. The music is arched eyebrow crappo moogy-synthy-disco-beaty stuff. Ho hum. Remember when synth-pop was a slinky, sleazy, dirty, dangerous thing? When people were reaching for the future, trying to be challenging? They looked really daft, but at least they weren’t sneering. And what have the new generation made of it? Way to drop the baton and tread it into the sludge of cynicism, kids.

Rhesus are Rhesus are Rhesus. They do what they do, which is competent, feisty punkpop, but it just never connects with me. Oh well.

Luxembourg are, in the words of the esteemed David Boyfriend Barnett, “on fire tonight!” they rattle through a set of ‘Ooh I love this one! Ooh and this one!’ songs, smart and snappy as you like. There’s the bouncily cheeky ‘Let Us Have It’ and the mournful treasure of ‘Mishandled’. Hip-twisting rabble-rousing someday single ‘Luxembourg versus Great Britain’ always conjures up the British sea-side, cheap ice-creams and lardy men with union jack handkerchiefs on their heads. It’s fab. David B., unable to contain his excitement, says ‘I’m going to the front!’ We’re about eight feet from the stage, so he takes a couple of steps forward. Luxembourg play ‘Close-cropped’ and we jiggle with joy. Luxembourg play ‘What The Housewives Don’t Tell You’ and we unleash our unsteadily dancing feet, but where are the adoring hordes flinging themselves at the stage? We get the fizzglam disco of ‘Success Is Never Enough’ and that’s it, Luxembourg have to clear the stage for some bunch of chancers who’re playing a sneaky gig later on. Lardy men with union jack handkerchiefs...er.
...yeah

Its Baby Shambles. Shamefaced with curiosity we hang around for a butchers as Blow Up club-night grinds into gear. Waiting for Doherty to appear, tapping a toe to the soul grooves, I muse on the nature of Blow Up. I remember this club when it was a snot-nosed pre-Brit-pop upstart initially called ‘Londinium’ and based at the Laurel Tree in Camden. Then it changed its name and you got given a little membership card that let you jump the queue and there were blokes doing slippy-slidey Northern Soul dances and Spanish mods who wanted to discuss Vespas with you. Oh yeah, and Menswe@r before they suddenly decided they were a ‘band’. And now Blow Up is this sort of student/tourist trap, tonight gradually filling with blank-eyed kids who slump down at the foot of the stage waiting for Peeeete! Oblivious to The Sonics wreaking a meltdown through the sound-system.

So at about 12.30am, Baby Shambles come on and do their thing. It’s alright, doesn’t really float my boat though. Pete sort of mumbles over this scuzzy indie backing, leaning out over a crowd that’s shouting unpleasant things about drugs at him. Nice. At one point he smashes a light above the stage that’s been shining in his face. Glass crashes, it goes a bit darker. More songs. It all seems kind of desperate and sad, no sense of joy in the music or community amongst the kids. Maybe it’s just a bad night. Can we have the first band back please?
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