Rose Kemp, Underground Railroad, The Physicists, Llan Clan
Bill Cummings 20/01/2007
Peppermint Patti, the monthly female fronted night at Chapter Arts Center, has slowly been building a reputation as a great night in Cardiff, assembling some brilliant line ups by featuring established local acts, young bands looking to make their mark, and crucially (listen up Barfly!) cherry picking some of the best underground indie bands in the country to play at their events. Thus you get the likes of the Hot Puppies and The Victorian English Gentlemen's Cub rubbing shoulders with Das Wanderlust, Wet Dog, Rose Kemp and a host of other out of town bands.
It's a testament to the quality of their promotions and the quality of their line up that tonight's PP is crammed to bursting, in fact it's their second sell out in a row! First up are Llan Clan, a band of 15-year olds from North Wales, sadly I missed their charms on stage, but checking out their MySpace, I'm pleasently suprised by their 60s-esque sense of melody, and multi-coloured tunage.
Girl band The Physicists are certainly an energetic prospect; their songs deliver plenty of filthy, buzzing, driving rhythmic, punk rock. There's the enjoyably wonky ska/punk riffage that flies behind shock blonde frontlady Sal throughout “Ballad of the”. Indeed there's quite a reception from the kids jumping around front and center. Next up is new single “Sleaze Campaign” a sneering bouncing Dead Kennedy's meets Hole-esque rocker, Sal's hoarse screaming delivery is both raw, and guttural, and at times quite exhilarating. The spiky blonde Sal also has a neat line in onstage banter, each line delivered with a sarcastic grin whether she's playfully having a go at the audience “I thought I saaw someone at the side of the stage, but it was the back of their head” or delivering the irony of a comment like: “This ones about the Iraq war, actually it's not but if it was it would probably make the world a better place.”
I'm sad to report that the rest of the tracks rather pass me by; the problem with the Physicists at present is they don't seem to have quite been able to define what style they're aiming for, thus they don't quite grab me round the neck and throttle me, the way say the Pistols would... their sound is often so raw and unhinged that there's a lack of real cohesion between vocals and the backing: so much so that they often fall between the three stools of punk/art rock/ and grunge. But there's no doubt that they are entertaining live, and show promise for the future.
Next on stage are the Paris/London based three piece Underground Railroad and they're another impressive prospect, dirty, visceral and powerful, their unique triple vocals are initially fronted by their drummer, but each member constantly lunges in and out of the vocal space, from gutteral screams to tuneful Pixies-esque melodies. UR really throw themselves into the noise they make too, the frankly barmy bass player jumps from foot to foot, and plays right down the neck of his bass lurching back and forth like it was a giant six string. UR's Marion, a slight female guitarist, wrestles with her instrument whilst screaming, and then there's the sharp guitar sounds, insistent and biting, at times they sound like Sonic Youth at their most berating, at others they are led by a sweet Americana-esque melody. A perfect example of the Underground Railroad sound is "Headache" a slow burning effort that builds through metallic guitar notes, into a searingly powerful slab of noise, led by Marion. The vocals sneer, it is part rrriot girrl part serrated angular art rock rhythm, shards of thrilling drilling guitars slice their way into your brain as a hard industrial rhythm...Whilst 'Watch and Play' is thrillingly noisy, melodic guitar rock, an American-esque melody, full of spite and anger but sweetly sung, as a barrage of guitars give me a head rush, whilst 100 mph backings and fierce skinm hitting gets your feet tapping. New single "COOKIES AND MILK" is superb, blunt drumming clatters and collapses into and out of life, as melodies are screamed and then sung.
Maybe the fact that Underground Railroad hail from France gives them an advantage, away from the insular scene's and expectations of the underground scene in the UK, these Parisians have carved a unique space for themeselves, check them out on One little Indian - you won't be dissapointed with the range and power of their material.
Lastly is headliner and GIITTV perrenial reviewee Rose Kemp, I must start by saying that I'm still a fan, Rose Kemp is a talented young lady: she still has a wonderful voice, she posses a heartbreaking tone that can reach into your mouth and squeeze your heart, and the songs are pretty strong too the hypnotic single "Violence" still sounds great, while the haunting multi track vocals of "Fire in the garden" is stunning. But too often Rose is swamped by her relatively new backing band, and the technical glitches that annoy her trhoughout, like a raft cast adrift in stormy waters, her backing band simply cover up the strength of what Rose does best solo: communicate the intimacy of her emotions, and her songs. Thus in the quieter, more sedate moments when Rose should be touching you, her band thrusts the whole thing with dirty fuzz, its nobody's fault it's just what happens when a solo artist attempts to establish a sound with a new backing band, maybe you could call it teething problems. Nevertheless her debut album out on One Little Indian shortly will be a joy to listen to.