review archive

The Pipettes / Circulus / Kitty, Daisy and Lewis – Bush Hall, 4th March 2005

Tonight’s fandango is a Turning Worm event, and we all know every good event should have a compere to add a sense of occasion and continuity. Amusingly, the bloke who has taken on this task appears increasingly the worse for drink each time he appears on stage, until he reaches a point at the end of the night where he’s slurringly demanding several thousand rounds of applause for the acts that have gone before. Steady on mate. What’s all the fuss about?

Well, first there’s Kitty, Daisy and Lewis who immediately win the crowd over because they’re three incredibly confident kids (I can never tell how old children are) thumping out chunks of rockabilly with country tinges. It’s like the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties happened and then got dismissed as stale daddio. The immaculately pompadored Lewis curls round his guitar like a minipops (minus the unpleasant associations) Elvis, shaking his be-chinoed legs, whilst Kitty and Daisy swap instruments and vocals with alarmingly practised ease. Mum and Dad fill out the sound on double bass and rhythm guitar.

It’s cool to see the kidz a -rockin’ like this, but there’s also something a bit off about it. Shouldn’t being a kid in a band be all about annoying the oldsters and finding scary new ways of making a noise? There’s nothing very fresh or youthful about the way Kitty and Daisy holler like raddled 40-a-day floozies. Hey you’re young, you’re confident, you can certainly play, (Kitty’s harmonica action is blistering), rip up the past and create a shining new future whilst you still can kids!

Lewis circa 1959
Milling about Bush Hall we notice a man dressed in a style that would see him fitting in perfectly with the cast of ‘Look Around You’ – snappy brown, possibly corduroy, 70s threads. This man turns out to be the singer bloke in Circulus, although it takes a while for us to recognise him. Why is this? Because onstage, he is sporting a floor-length gold lame tube dress and a Quaker style brimmed hat and stiff black coat. How can you not admire a band that features a front-man dressed thus? The rest of Circulus are no sartorial slouches, all splendidly rocking the medieval minstrel meets 70s weirdy-beardy folkster look. The singer lady has on a magnificent, alarmingly patterned frock that would do Margot Leadbetter proud. Then there’s the pointy-hooded monk on bongos (and, sadly, that’s not a sentence I have to type often).
Oh joy! So Circlus have won me over on visuals alone, what in God’s name do they sound like? Simple, they sound like their clothes, so proceedings are kicked off with a Moog-generated drone and the band gathered front of stage for a bout of close-harmony chanting, before they rip into some prime psychedelic folk-prog with added antiquarianism. Wow. It certainly beats watching yet another bunch of chancers pretending it’s the 1980s. Why not pretend it’s the 1380s instead? If this was 1972 you’d be lapping it up. Why trust one era and not the other? That’s politics, isn’t it?

We get swooping, fiddly, drone-tinged rock with piping wind instruments. It’s a bit Pentangle, but more widdly. One song in particular is fantastic, total powered up melody with hints of west coast pop, only medieval, innit? At one point some kind of lute thing (look I’m not well-versed in ancient forms of instrumentation) makes an appearance and I get very excited at the loopy sonic possibilities this suggests, but damn! it’s broken. Never mind, Circulus carry on regardless. Forsooth, they rocketh verily.

The Pipettes are three ladies clad in home-made, matching, polka-dot dresses. The dresses are very short. Suddenly, I seem to be surrounded by old blokes with cameras. Far be it for me to cast aspersions on their photographic motives, but it’s vaguely discomfiting. It’s a relief then when the front line of the audience transmutes into a gaggle of finger-clicking, leg-waggling, beaming dancers. It seems rude to hold back, especially in the face of The Pipettes’ demands that we all cut a rug, so I shimmy about gleefully. This is the best way to enjoy The Pipettes, jigging joyfully, throwing notions of cool to the wind.Band theme song ‘We Are The Pipettes’ bookends the set, veering from buzzing bubblegum garage to that cool children’s tv tune that’s lurked half-remembered in your head since you were nine years old.. snap, crackle...

“We are the Pipettes and we’ve got no regrets/ If you haven’t noticed yet we’re the prettiest girls you’ve ever met”. Songs come and go in the blink of a false eyelash, fizzing fast and bright. ‘One Night Stand’, ‘Dirty Mind’, ‘It Hurts to See You Dance So Well’; it’s sugar pop heaven with a strychnine streak, the cute dance routines and hand-jiving belying the wry lyrics.

POP! This is post-feminist girl-group pop, with songs like ‘Tie Me To The Kitchen Sink’ being musical versions of those cards featuring peachy ‘50s housewives labelled with caustic slogans (though infinitely more entertaining, obviously).

As the ladies storm their way through a multitude of effervescently thrilling sticky pop delights, garnering all the glamour with their ferocious formation singing, behind them their band The Cassettes tumble out the backing. The Cassettes are a gaggle of skinny boys dressed alike in geeky-cool college boy cardies. They look the part, fags clamped in mouths as they get on with churning up a doo-lally doo-wop sound. But hey, never mind them, skinny boys with guitars are ten-a-penny. It’s The Pipettes who’re the stars here and we’re not likely to forget it as we wiggle and shimmy and it’s over all too soon. Though not before a rousing encore of ‘I Like A Boy In Uniform (School Uniform)’ with its twisty tale of girl likes boy, but boy likes boys, so girl decides to ‘go with the flow’ and ends up liking girls as well. Look, it makes sense if you listen to the song. And if it doesn’t, just dance.
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