The Joy Formidable, Chapel Club, Flats

Alex Nelson 28/09/2010

East-Londoners Flats take to the stage with a striking panache, lighting up the room with a blazing squeal of guitar noisery before launching into their trash-punk stylings which evoke the spirit of Crass Records et al in a gloriously time efficient manner. Indeed, if our calculations are to be correct (and they're probably not), Flats' songs clock in averagely at a speedy one minute forty-five seconds. But that's all the time they need to cram in speedy punk riffs, contemptuous swaggers, and an abrasive message about, something; beneath the fuzz of the P.A. the assumed lyrical intimation (Flats look like angry sorta guys) is lost. Frontman Dan Devine demands the audience to buy the band's t-shirts and CDs, then introduces 'a song we wrote in our first rehearsal', and covers the front rows with beer.

Chapel Club bring to the stage their own take on the now saturated market of synth-laden jangle pop. Sounding tight and rehearsed throughout the set, it is clear that Chapel Club could perhaps be destined for bigger and brighter futures, but the music fails to instil much adulation in this reviewer. The standard format of a synth backdrop, overlaid with twangy Smiths-y guitars get a full workout tonight, and the set does not succeed in picking up any real sort of pace. Nonetheless, the band seems to go down well with the crowd. They close with 'Paper Thin' before finding themselves in the midst of a wildly out-of-character and wholly out-of-place noise jam, all screeching feedback and expensive looking guitars clattering to the floor which somewhat goes against the previous thirty minute's professionalism and restrain, before leaving the stage to make way for tonight's headliners.

With the stage adorned with birdcages and mood lighting, The Joy
bound onstage in a flurry of smiles, with singer Ritzy Bryan
shooting the crowd appreciative, toothy grins before a first note has even rung out. They launch into 'Cradle' as an opener, the song's explosion of an intro and 'ooh-oohwaooh' codas grabbing the audiences immediate attention. The set tonight is a series of highs and lows, with certain songs becoming close to amazing, and certain others falling to the wayside with no real discernible plus points. 'The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade' falls firmly into the former category, a blaring synth intro giving way to the track's wall of noise aesthetics and dreamy demeanour; I wouldn't be lying if I told you the hairs on the back of my neck may have been standing up.

'Austere' falls foul to an extended jammy intro which feels pompous
and unnecessary under the circumstances, and the band even go semi-acoustic in possibly the most misjudged ironic performance of a Christmas song ever. The band rely a bit too heavily on pre-recorded samples to flesh out the sound of their set, but when it works, it really works. Set closer 'Whirring' proves another worthy highlight, its free form structure inviting the band to bash away furiously at their instruments, with Ritzy knocking her guitar's strings into a lone drum riser; perhaps something of a scripted event in The Joy Formidable's sets these days, but entertaining to watch all the same. When the band comes back on for their encore of 'I Don't Want To See You Like This' the singer announces 'that song takes it toll on certain connections.'

So, of all the bands on this NME Radar Tour, Flats are the ones who are coming in fast for a turbulent crash landing, The Joy Formidable are sort of drifting in for an unremarkable soft landing, and Chapel Club are still stacking up somewhere above Heathrow.

And with that preposterous aviation metaphor, I leave you.