Now almost three years old, The Liars Club has built a reputation for hosting some of the most cutting-edge acts around. Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and the Scissor Sisters have all played there, on their way to major success.
Tonight was the turn of two bands with a similar take on twisted, punked-up electro-pop: Battant from London, and ADULT. from Detroit.
Following a successful tour supporting Ladytron, Battant are quickly building up an insiders’ buzz. Their greatest asset is vocalist Chloe: a waif-like ice maiden, with a steely stage presence. Comparisons with Siouxsie Sioux are inevitable, and deserved.
Greeted with whoops of recognition, the band’s stand-out track was Jump Up: a jerky, new-wavey number, evoking memories of the wonderfully batty Lene Lovich and Nina Hagen.
Headliners ADULT. – former darlings of the short-lived electroclash scene – took the same formula, and pushed it to new extremes.
With her vocals shrouded in heavy echo, it was impossible to discern what Nicola Kuperus was singing about. Instead, one searched her bizarre, witch-like performance for clues. Eerie, unsettling, slightly mocking, performing almost to herself, she wailed and chanted above the raging squall of the backing track and bass guitar, scarcely moving her lips throughout.
Unfortunately, ADULT.’s limited box of tricks was soon worn out. The audience divided. While the glowstick-waving Nathan Barley types at the front shimmied and swayed, those towards the back stood motionless and puzzled.
Sure, it’s good to be confrontational. But without any substance to back it up, it’s all too easy to wind up looking rather superficial in the process.
The last time that Computerman played Nottingham, their audience numbered just twelve. This time, despite an early start, they drew a healthy crowd of supporters, who were clearly not just there for the headliners.
Which is just as it should be, as the five-piece band was based in Nottingham, before moving to London and landing a record deal. Their current single, No More Broken Hearts, is a good representation of their live sound: fast, furious, and dramatic.
Vocals are shared between bassist Adam Pickering – a natural rock star, with a touch of the Tim Burgess about him (bet he hates that comparison) – and bespectacled guitarist Mark Sykes, whose voice was reminiscent of James Dean Bradfield from the Manics. The two singers had an endearing habit of mouthing each other’s words when they weren’t singing, as if they couldn’t wait to join in.
Computerman are back in Nottingham on February 17, playing Trent University. They deserve a bigger crowd still.
Following such a well-received support set, The Fallout Trust battled to keep the audience on-side. As time went on, the chatter at the back of the room threatened to drown them out entirely.
This was a shame, as they are accomplished musicians with a lot to offer. Singer Joe Winter gave an intense, committed performance, jerking around like a man possessed. The music was at its most interesting when it steered away from generic NME-approved rock, towards a more melodic, structured sound.
Conjure One – Extraordinary Way
The chap behind Conjure One was also one of the chaps behind Delerium, who (along with guest vocalist Sarah McLachlan) had a UK Top 3 hit in 2000 with “Silence”. This is essentially more of the same: melodic commercial trance with soft female vocals, and the sort of non-specifically “deep” lyrics that can readily be customised to soundtrack the peak-time, big-room, rushing-on-the-second-pill e-piphany of one’s own devising. (“Oh God, this is ME! How did they KNOW?”) (6)
The Ordinary Boys – Boys Will Be Boys
The Ordinary Boys seem content to inhabit a perpetual Autumn 1980, and on the strength of this dinky little 2-Tone pastiche (the only such number in their repertoire, which mostly tips its hat in the direction of Paul Weller) I’m not about to rock their boat. With the breakneck tempo of Bad Manners, the block chords of Madness (specifically “Baggy Trousers”), the horns of The Specials, and even a guest appearance from the son of The Beat’s Rankin’ Roger, it scores full marks for verisimilitude. I once saw Phil Jupitus sing guest lead vocals on this, on stage at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham. And very good he was too. Better than that jumped-up media whore who usually sings with them, at any rate. (6)
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan – Jiya Dhadak Dhadak Jaaye
Having served since boyhood as an apprentice to his late uncle, the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat was officially appointed as his successor, taking over the Qawwali master’s musical entourage upon his death in 1997. So, no pressure then. OK, so maybe Rahat is no Nusrat—but he’s a fine singer all the same. Taken from the soundtrack of the recent Bollywood smash Kalyug (a genre-busting exposé of the porn industry, no less) this old-fashioned romantic ballad has just reached Number One in the Hindi charts, giving Rahat a renewed visibility and a welcome career boost. This is the sort of thing which presses all of my buttons, and I think it’s perfectly lovely. (7)
Kapanga – Rock
So you were back-packing through Argentina, and you ended up in this little place in the middle of nowhere, where you spent every night getting hammered on tequila slammers at the bar in the main square, and two or three times a night someone would walk up to the battered old jukebox in the corner and put this record on, with its raucously good-humoured Manu Chao-esque blend of ska and thrash and accordions and the whole bar would start shouting along and stomping their feet and bashing their pool cues on the ground, and someone would always grab you from your seat and start whirling you round, while chickens scattered out of your way in the dust, and grinning, toothless grandmas emerged from the kitchen, nodding their heads from side to side and rattling their pots and pans, and, well, you had to be there really, but hearing this brings it all back. Even if you were never really there in the first place. (8)
Lil Wayne – Fireman
Known to us Brits—if indeed he is known at all—as one of the two guest rappers on Destiny’s Child’s godawful “Soldier” from this time a year ago, Lil’ Wayne turns in an efficiently workmanlike piece of lumbering, lascivious, amiably menacing crunk. Hmm, crunk. We don’t get that much of it over here—but when we do, it’s mostly provided by Lil’ Jon. So is that a crunk “thing”, calling everybody Lil’ Something-or-other? And if so, where does that leave Lil’ Kim? (As you might have gathered, I am paddling in unfamiliar waters. But this is quite good.) (6)
t.A.T.u. – Friend Or Foe
Written by Dave Stewart from the chart-topping Eurythmics! Featuring chart-topping Sting on bass! And sounding just like any other Tatu single, but polished up a bit, and thoroughly de-lesbified of course, and not quite as shrill and breathless and urgent as they were in the old days, but then they are All Grown Up Now, and Re-establishing Themselves In The Global Marketplace, and clearly No Longer Ruled By An Evil Svengali Figure, and therefore Free To Be Themselves At Last, and, yeah, you know the script. Never being much of a fan of Trevor Horn Faux-Lesbian Tatu in the first place (except when they scandalised Eurovision, which was FACKING MEGA), I can’t say that Dave Stewart Adult Contemporary Tatu either improves or dilutes the original blueprint in any significant way. (5)