My First Radio, Fire In Cairo, The Half Rabbits
Mark L 15/09/2006
This gig was about Oxfam and My First Radio. OK, it was about Oxfam. But, when the Oxfam reps were going around asking us to sign petitions to end poverty in the developing world, they might as well have got us all to sign next to 'I agree that My First Radio are amazing and we will be hearing a lot more about them in 2007' too. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. Let's deal with the openers.
First we have a band called The Half Rabbits who are pretty much in thrall to the whole 80s Editors type movement. In fact it says on the Club Hedonistic site that they have supported Editors. Perhaps they were taking notes, stalking Tom and the gang down the hallways and such. Because the problem here is that the Rabbits really don't seem to break free from being mere copyists, and to copy Editors, who are copies of Interpol, who are (supposedly) copies of Joy Division. Well, you need to bring something fresh to the party unless you want to come over as a 4th generation photocopy. The singer has the same Ian Curtis aping 'I am not interested' low mumble. But instead of sounding cool, most of the time it really sounds like he isn't interested. Most of the set didn't grab me, yet one or two songs were admittedly, impressive. Notably on one of the tracks near the end, where they really came alive with some stop start rhythms and a great chorus. It was almost like a different band.
Then a band full of guys in Bowler Hats take the stage (Fire in Cairo) and really make an impact with their opening couple of tracks which contained perfectly formed Saves The Day style American Punk Anthem (TM) choruses, but mixed with a nice hint of British angular style spikiness in the verses, and some tight, almost ska like rythms. Sadly it all started to go downhill with a slow song which sounded like it had come off 'Worst Teen American Movie Anthems Ever', and a few tracks following that which just came over like weak Blink 182, or My Chemical Romance rip offs. In fact the singer's voice seemed to go more and more Americana as the set went on. One track near the end of the set went some way to recapturing the impression left by the openers, but it was too little too late. By the time the major label production and A+R team have got their hands around these guys, the emphasis will be on the shitty American teen movie aspect of the sound I am sure.
Vocalist Ross lights a cigarette as My First Radio take the stage, and as the intro loop of opener 'Prayers Over Static' whirls away in the background, he coolly takes a few drags and paces a little, glancing down and to the side, before flicking the butt into the empty space ahead, swinging up his guitar, and powering into the opening verse with the rest of the band. It is a gear change from such nonchalance to such intensity, that you realise, not only does smoking seem really cool now*, but this lot are supremely confident in their ability to mess with your eardrums.
Tonight MFR masterfully tread the line between technical brilliance and ragged slightly rough around the seams raw power. Utilising everything from slide guitar, looping effects pedals, distorted bass, and chiming delays, they succeed where bands like Mogwai fail, by adding the vital ingredient of killer tunes and amazing vocals.
Imagine all the yearning and emotion of Elbow, the ear for a melody of Coldplay, allied with the take your face off guitars of Six By Seven and you will be somewhere close to where My First Radio are at.
They mix songs containing more conventional structure with almost linear tracks, containing one long verse, which will build and build into a giant art house soundscape chorus before collapsing into a wall of sound. This change in traditional song format that MFR are fond of, may be less 'commercial maaaan' but adds a wonderful unpredictability to the set, with the different sorts of tracks melding together to create a coherent whole rather than a load of disparate songs. Bursts of sound that hang together like jagged knives on a rack.
One track nicks Elbows' looping 'Any Day Now' vocal trick and takes it one step further with multiple layers of voice, before grinding to a halt. Similarly, 'The Buzz' slams into the set before building up to one big chorus and abruptly shocking the crowd into silence, by stopping suddenly. 'Strangers' powers along with its traditional verse chorus style. While later songs, including a beautiful 'lighters in the air' torch song amaze.
The beauty of My First Radio as a band is that they are far from conventional, whilst being very close to conventional. They have the danger that Coldplay and Embrace wish they had, the visceral edge that Elbow want, and the tunes that all those indie noisemakers yearn for. Now where is that petition?
*rather than making you stink, and giving you cancer, don't do it kids.
photo courtesy of www.sixfoothigh.co.uk