Reviews: In The City, 07/10/08

I volunteered to write some reviews of unsigned bands for BBC Introducing. The original reviews can be found at the link below. Reviews for other bands from fellow BBC journalists are also captured below for completeness, my reviews are in bold italics.


Monday at In The City

With a myriad of bands on offer, the BBC Manchester Introducing reviewers hit day two of In The City with gusto. Here's what they saw... (reviews by Chris Long, Colin Warhurst, Christina McDermott, James Walker)
The Real Dolls at Piccadilly Records (c) Ben Page
The Real Dolls (c) Ben Page

The Real Dolls at Piccadilly Records, 6.30pm (CL)

It might just be the natural exuberance of backing singer and human dance dynamo Yo-Yo, but it’s difficult not to love The Real Dolls. Their self-branded ‘pronk’ style of music is addictive anti-dance brilliance that just begs to be grinned at and any band who make sure that being huddled into a back corner of a record shop doesn’t stop them screaming ‘come on Manchester!’ while waving a mic stand in the air deserves nothing but your complete respect.

Petty Thief at Cup, 7pm (CL)

Trust Cup, that bastion of culinary goodness, to take the opportunity of In The City to feed not just your belly, but your soul too. Inviting The Travelling Band to put together a night of acoustic music was always going to be good, but the fact that the fellas managed to lure Petty Thief, aka Aron Robinson, back to the Mancunian stage made it a bit special. Better still, he’s ditched his Dylan obsession and found his own voice. On this evidence, he may well end up stealing our hearts after all.

The Chase at Jabez Clegg, 7.15pm (CW)

Second on the bill at 7.15pm on a Monday, and with an entry fee not in proportion to the time or location, it was no wonder the venue was so empty. However, The Chase acted as true professionals and played a tight set which enjoyed a little more echo in Jabez Clegg than usual. Newer material such as ‘Lover #01’ displayed a darker edge not seen in their earlier tunes and is indicative of a more mature song writing style. These guys have been around for a while, and one hopes that playing small gigs such as this won’t put them off.
The 66 (c) Lynn Smith
The 66 (c) Lynn Smith

The 66 at Jabez Clegg, 8pm (CW)

These guys were evidently a new and young band, looking like awkward gangly teenagers squeezing into impossibly straight trousers and shirts. With spades of enthusiasm, they delivered tunes that had a good pace, but were a little too long and meandering without a catchy chorus to see you through. Indeed, only the keys seemed to do anything different to the rest of the instruments at times, and it was nice to hear Wurlitzer tones coming through. Yet removing your shirt at an ITC fringe gig to a virtually empty venue with a crowd consisting of your aunties, uncles and parents is as creepy as it is cringe-worthy. Still, one hopes this is just a stage they are going through and their songs and style did show enough to reveal potential.

The Bottomfeeders at Academy 3, 8pm (CM)

There’s something indefinably wonderful about watching The Bottomfeeders live. Always different, yet always the same, it would take a constitution of sheer iron not to be dragged headfirst into the world of their gothic cabaret act, resplendent with songs about horses and how skinny white boys should eat more pies. And, best of all, their front woman really knows how to light up the stage, sounding like Kate Bush and decked out with false eyelashes last seen on a Gypsy woman’s fan. They’re also probably the best band around at the moment who have their very own cellist-slash-saw player.
Magic Arm at Piccadilly Records (c) Shirlaine Forrest
Magic Arm (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Magic Arm at Piccadilly Records, 8.10pm (CL)

Hunkered into the corner of Piccadilly Records doesn’t suit everyone, but the tight confines made Marc ‘Magic Arm’ Rigelsford bloom. Ably assisted by My Side Of The Mountain, he flexed his growing confidence, steadfastly producing his beautiful music despite such distractions as a broken harmonica. In tracks like ‘Outdoor Games’ and ‘Bootsy Bootsy’, he has future classics that just beg to be loved.

The Vivians at Walkabout, 8.30pm (JW)

The Vivians have been described in recent press reports as ‘reminiscent’ of punk. In reality, the Scottish quintet are nothing more than a faded carbon-copy of an ideology that is nowadays either better off being cherry-picked or left alone entirely. Yes, you could argue that an Australian-themed bar is not the most appropriate venue for a troupe of ‘don’t-give-a-****s’, but the Vivians’ entire onstage presence came across as being a choreographed, practiced, style-over-content shambles. It all became too much when the lead guitarist started jumping around on the empty front-row tables. Nothing new here, I’m afraid.
Radio Luxembourg
Radio Luxembourg

Radio Luxembourg at Chicago Rock, 8.45pm (CL)

One listen to Radio Luxembourg and you know exactly where they are coming from, both geographically and culturally. Following the lineage of Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci straight out of the wilds of Wales, theirs is a land of psych-rock and delicious harmonies, and while they may not be doing anything earth-shattering, it’s reassuring to know that there is a band ready and willing to take up Gruff and Euros’ fight when they finally weary.

The Molotovs at Moho Live, 9pm (CW)

These guys were poptastic; plenty of foot tapping and head bopping, though sadly, not quite enough room for catchy choruses. They had subtle blends of The Divine Comedy and a smidgen of The Zutons thrown in for good measure. Indeed, there is a little bit of everything in this band, but at the same time, nothing as volatile as their name suggests. Great rock and roll fun, delivered with enough clarity to ensure that they are an act worth keeping an eye on.

Soft Toy Emergency at One Central Street, 9.15pm (CL)

Soft Toy Emergency might actually make the sound of neon. So now, they hurt, the band are a full-on, scattergun dance-pop delight who make music filled with screeches, aural storms and breathless breaks designed to throw shapes and grin to. It’s not high-brow, but it’s massive fun and you’d have to be a miserable old spoilsport not to agree.

Young British Artists at Ruby Lounge, 9.30pm (CM)

The best part of In The City is seeing whether the band you’re seeing bear any resemblance to the artists they’re comparing themselves to. A glance at the handy In The City artists guide informs us that Young British Artists sound like a cross between “Yo La Tengo, My Bloody Valentine and Pavement” which comes as a bit of a shock considering that the band in front of us sound like Bloc Party and have all the charisma of a wet flannel. This is landfill indie at is finest, music so boring you forget the songs whilst they’re being played.
Josh Weller
Josh Weller

Josh Weller at Moho Live, 9.45pm (CW)

What would happen if you got a band together consisting of Buddy Holly playing Eraserhead, Jesus Christ in a blouse, a Brandon Flowers lookalike and Ritchie from Happy Days dressed as a street urchin? Well, the answer is Josh Weller and his band. Looking at them, I knew they’d have to play pretty well in order to get away with looking so deliberately odd; and they didn’t disappoint, happily disproving my pre-conceptions of another geek-chic for the sake of it act gone wrong. They simply exploded into their first few tunes, with a manic acoustic guitar and keyboards leading on frenetic ditties for the next 20 minutes. Eccentric yet accessible with a great set of bop-along tunes, imagine the score of a Silly Symphony cartoon injected with narcotics and the spirit of Eels’s Mr E minus the melancholy, and you’re probably halfway there.

Last Gang at One Central Street, 10pm (CL)

Who’d have thought that someone would actually want to be the new McFly? Not that the bouncy foursome are particularly bad, it’s just they’re not exactly inspiring. It hasn’t stopped Last Gang though; sadly they fall far short of Danny and company’s standard. It might have been an off night, but if the caterwaul they produced really is their best harmonising, they still have a lot of work to do.
The Sisters of Transistors (c) Sam Easterby-Smith
The Sisters of Transistors (c) Sam Easterby-Smith

The Sisters of Transistors at Academy 3, 10.15pm (CM)

Now this is more like it. Four Amazonian warriors, clad in day-glo orange robes, playing reconditioned exhibition model organs, backed by what looks like Keith Allen on drums. Not only do Sisters of Transistors look amazing, but they manage to produce music which sounds like the soundtrack to a Hammer Horror Film, with the girls continually doing a strange kind of beguiling tag team dance around the keyboards in between songs.  The only way in which this could be any more atmospheric would be if they hired Christopher Lee to stalk the stage. The Sisters of Transistors may arguably be one of the least commercially viable bands at In the City, but they’re certainly one of the finest.

Dash Delete at Chicago Rock, 10.15pm (CL)

In The City is about making yourself stand out, something that Dash Delete would have done well to have understood before taking the stage at Chicago Rock. As it was, they did little to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Good musicians as they are, Dash Delete are lacking that one killer hook or lyric that would actually ignite their music.
Polly Scattergood
Polly Scattergood

Polly Scattergood at Moho Live, 10.30pm (CW)

Electronic beats and atmospheric synths, all mixed in with a beautiful porcelain doll of a singer. Yet it is Polly’s voice that binds all the various elements of her songwriting together into something more than the sum of their parts. A forceful fragility lends her vocals credence and her range goes from whisper to operatic on a hairpin turn. A captivating persona with the tunes to match, she has exactly the right mixture of strength, subtlety and sweetness in the right places.

The Paris Riots at One Central Street, 10.45pm (CL)

ITC host and former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham is rumoured to be a bit of a fan of The Paris Riots. It’s easy to see why. The band are fine rock ‘n’ rollers, mixing in touches of Kings Of Leon and The Doors into their Mancunian swagger to great effect. It’s straightforward stuff and all the better for it. Certainly, if their short set was anything to go by, they certainly have it in them to follow in the footsteps of former Manc ITC successes Oasis and Twisted Wheel.
Robots In Disguise (c) Shirlaine Forrest
Robots In Disguise (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Robots In Disguise at Moho Live, 11.15pm (CW)

Eagerly anticipated by swarms of fans, who took to the barriers separating RID from their admirers, these glam-rock punks came dressed as extras from A Clockwork Orange. That’s their costumes more or less summed up, but trying to describe their sound in such a pithy way would prove difficult. Electronic loops and SFX provided a subtle foundation upon which RID let loose guitar and bass without mercy. Immediately stepping up the energy levels to eleven, the whole place was alive and with their constant disregard for the barrier or camera crew, it was sometimes difficult to know who was where in the throng of band, camera crew, fans and photographers. They managed to make more noise and produce better songs with one guitar and a bass than a band with five times the kit and amplifiers ever could. Quite simply an amazing act guaranteed to make the liveliest party look like a funeral in comparison.