The Rumblestrips, Pull Tiger Tail, Blood Red Shoes, The Little Ones - NME New Bands Tour: the verdict
GodIsInTheTV sent two of its writers to cover the NME New Bands Tour, supposedly setting the cultural compass for this year's new music. But have the NME got it right? Thomas saw the tour hit Cardiff's Coal Exchange, while Paul Cook (in italics) was present at the Norwich Waterfront gig. Over to you, gentlemen.
To an intimate and devoted crowd of less than 400 with all the power and prowess of an experienced White Stripes, indie-rock duo Blood Red Shoes opened the night (Norwich). Kicking things off can't have been an easy task but a performance of true showmanship was delivered by the Brighton two-piece. After saying in an NME interview they were “looking forward to Norwich” they didn't disappoint. At the end of Blood Red Shoes' set members of the other bands came on stage to generally mess around, beating drums and dancing. The sense of friendship the bands had formed with each other by this last night was clear as day.
First, let's get American jokers the Little Ones out of the way. It's tough to describe the sound of a band whose songs have no discernible beginnings, middle-eights or climaxes, instead merely existing as smiley-faced, formless six-minute jams. So we won't.
Next up were the Californian indie revelation The Little Ones with their melancholic energy and charismatic front-man Ed Reyes. Shining vocals and crisp sound from each and every string of the guitars made for an electrifying follow up. End-of-tour celebrations ensued once again with The Rumblestrips' Henry Clark and Tom Gorbutt giving trumpet and sax accompaniment to the last song of the set.
Let's turn our attentions to Brighton's Blood Red Shoes, a twosome with a bit of pluck about them who thankfully know that rock n roll is, of course, all about madness and fucking. Their boy-girl vocals, concentrated, stripped back sound and off-kilter air are reminiscent of the Victorian English Gentlemen's Club, only less eccentric, instead more abstract and claustrophobic. Drummer and co-vocalist Steven demands every ounce from his kit while Laura-Mary hacks keenly away at her guitar, extracting sharp growls of protest from the machine as both singers match each other through line for line of urban paranoia, longing and frustration.
There's no trace of sullenness or arrogance though, the band sharing quirky tales of post-gig trouser theft and expertly drawing the crowd stagewards. “Even though we're playing the houses of parliament,” Steven wryly notes, gesturing at the high ceilings of the grand old Coal Exchange, “we can still have some fun”, and eight or nine songs are duly dispatched with verve and enthusiasm. BRS may not be the finished article yet, work still required on the (overly repetitive) lyrics, but they're already a tight unit and crucially, have the spirit to go far, Laura-Mary's guitar getting petulantly thrown to the floor as biting early release 'ADHD' brings things to a suitably hyper, crazed mess of an ending.
The highlight and powerhouse performance of the night, Pull Tiger Tail followed. Encapsulating the audience and pulsing the hits 'Mr 100 percent', 'Animator', 'Lock and Key' and 'Let's Lightning' through the rapturous crowd. Almost lifting the roof off the Waterhouse, Pull Tiger Tail were by far the best received band of the night. Front man Marcus Ratcliff poured heart and soul into the vocals and the crowd were even treated to brand new single 'Hurricanes.' With electric live showmanship like this it's hard not to see Pull Tiger Tail being one of the breakthrough indie acts of the year with the album 'Wait For Me' having hit shelves recently too.
A little later, Pull Tiger Tail take to the stage. They've been described as “Devo fronted by Morrissey”, but it actually seems like the singer wants to be in Razorlight, the bassist wants to be in front of a full-length mirror, and the drummer… well, who's looking at the drummer anyway. They strum, squeal and preen away, but there's no anger, no beauty and no emotional weight in a single second of their set to make any of it worthwhile. Clearly just another indie band to discover keyboards in the Great Casio sale of 2005, they turn out to be, sadly, just as cheap and disposable.
To finish the night the headline act of this year's NME New Music Tour, The Rumblestrips played the crowd out with a selection of hits, accompanied again by the extra-ordinary additions of the Little Ones, Blood Red Shoes and Pull Tiger Tail. This year's New Music Tour has seen four extremely talented bands prove themselves and form strong bonds, musically and socially. Shining throughout all of it, as seen so often, the “lesser knowns” have impressed the most, particularly Pull Tiger Tail who have shown why they are one of Britain's most promising young talents.
A hurrah of sorts then for the Rumble Strips, who at least have an identity and a sound to call their own. Augmented by keys and horns, they're essentially Dexy's put through a contemporary filter, with the bassist frequently deserting his instrument to hammer away at a single drum centre stage. They play that good one about wishing your bike was a motorcycle, plus one surprisingly jaunty number that nods towards the charming Vincent Vincent and the Villains. But that's about it; while there's soul in the performance for sure, overall there's a nagging, in fact worrying lack of killer songs. Well played as their set is, it lacks the cutting edge needed to make any lasting mark on the audience, who bar a cheery, dancing dozen at the front, appear largely unmoved throughout.
So what do we have to show for our evening overall? It's fair to say one success, one forgettable lightweight, one astonishingly poor waste of our time and a likeable but shrug-inducing headliner. The choice of bands seems reflected in the attendance too, the venue barely half full at best, and truthfully, we leave feeling bored and disappointed. If you'd like to hear the NME's version, they review the event on page 8 of their 20th May edition and pronounce it to have been both “incendiary” and “explosive”. While one person's meat may indeed be another poison, let's not beat about the bush here: you are being lied to by cunts.
Writers: Thomas & Paul Cook.