The Big Pink, We Fell To Earth, Teen Girl Fantasy
Hugh Worskett 22/10/2009
In my mind the backlash against over-hyped 4AD signings The Big Pink had already started, to the extent that, having eagerly snapped up their first two vinyl singles, I never quite got round to listening to the album. But no matter. Having followed the band throughout the festival season, from the debilitating sound of Field Day, to the hints of brilliance in an empty tent at Bestival I was very much looking forward to see what they could produce in a venue that was seemingly purpose built for them, both due to its dingy atmosphere and the audience it attracts.
So when I turned up at 8:45 to hear some epic noisiness drifting out from a red lit, smokey stage, I was disappointed they'd started an hour early. Of course they hadn't actually but what I was hearing was a puzzlingly similar support act called We Fell To Earth. A contrast of bands would have been better but then again, shame on me for getting distracted by a plate of fish and chips and missing show openers Teen Girl Fantasy. They probably played a suitably contrasting set of Japanese Glitch-Hop, or something. And if that doesn't exist yet can someone please invent it? I'd like to know what it sounds like.
Anyway, so now to The Big Pink's actual set. First up, they looked fantastic. I mean reaaally good. Bathed in light and smoke (yes, like the other lot), their movements were apparently controlled by the vibrations and pulses surging from their amplifiers (unlike the other lot who apparently still starch their clothes). On opening track 'Too Young To Love', single 'Velvet' and the theme-tune for Sky TV, 'Dominoes', they sound fucking massive. It's a glorious noise - all consuming and reeking of sexual bravado. Spaffing brilliant. But there's a 'but', and it's a big 'but':
The rest of the set was weak. The song writing for the most part is not particularly strong, relying more on a high production value rather than anything else. While there are a few great moments, the strength of melody is confined to only a few (the aforementioned) tracks and this isn't enough to sustain the atmosphere that at certain moments promises to be so euphoric.
I think the solution is very simple though. Ditch the programmed drums. They are unmusical and stop the band from changing the speed of songs and controlling the pace of their set, something completely vital for enthusing and engaging with a crowd. Live, 'Velvet', as much as I love the recorded version, should either be a fast romantic punk charge, or a slowed down moment of melodic indulgence. Stuck at the album's pace, and without any room to change the tempo, it felt a bit too measured, and a bit too restrained.
I left the Electric Ballroom with even more unanswered questions than I had before. The aesthetic of The Big Pink is brilliant, and perhaps because of that their natural domain is in enthusiasts' 7” singles collection. They have certainly not developed their live set up to a level justifying the hype, but maybe given a bit more time they'll work out what it is they need to do to deliver.