Gertrude, (hooker), One More Kiss, Wrong Animal
Kev Eddy 00/00/0000
'Can someone get me a pint of Stella? Stella - yeah, that's right, mate. Stella'. With that (and a vibrating pulse of electro noise) Wrong Animal begin their set. In a half-full converted theatre in Kings Cross, a crowd of people expecting some dodgy last-minute 'mates of the promoter' band collectively go 'Wuh?' and turn their heads to pay a bit more attention. This band taste like fire. Fire with ADHD. Musically, generically, they're all over the place - bouncing from one end of the musical spectrum to another. Even so, frontwoman Miss Bee holds it all together with a damn impressive scream, a touch of self-deprecating humour and a fair amount of Stella. A very welcome surprise.
One More Kiss, unfortunately, pale in comparison. There's nothing ultimately wrong with their taut power-indie, and there are certainly high points - Speaking Dirty English and Solitary Confinement are potential hits in the making - but the main problem is the rest of the set. It's like they have two tiers of songs: one is far superior to the other. And they know it. They look bored when playing the lower tier. When the band themselves look bored with their songs (especially at this stage in their career) what chance do the audience have? Even so, if they carry on writing songs of the calibre of the higher tier there's a hell of a lot of potential here.
I first saw (hooker) about two years ago, in an arts centre in Cardiff. It was upstairs, in a room that somewhat resembled a basketball court - that had the acoustics of the inside of a copper vase. Despite that, they blew me away then. They come on stage tonight and don't disappoint - they're absolutely superb. Singer Zoe McVeigh's hugely emotive voice is perfect for their razor-sharp and uncompromising brand of punk - but it's not just that that makes them. It's not even the fact that a three-piece, playing a bass with three strings and a guitar with four strings, makes as much noise as some six-strong bands. It's the fact that they still seem slightly amazed and embarrassed that the audience loves them, casting little joy-filled glances at each other. (hooker) are without a doubt the most upfront and honest band I've seen in years, and if you have an ounce of passion in you, see them. They'll inspire you.
After that, you'd think it'd take a lot for Gertrude to impress. Well, to be fair to them, they don't have the surprise factor of Wrong Animal or the sheer emotional power of (hooker). What they do have, though, is just as good. They strike the balance between energetic punk rock and sheer joy-filled quirkiness perfectly - and somehow with a wonderful permasmile on guitar and clarinet player Iona Tanguay's face. Yes, I did say clarinet. It's this kind of inspired lunacy and sense of fun that moves them beyond being just another riot grrrl band into a whole different league. Punk's not dead - it's started wearing stripey stockings instead.