Topman/NME new music tour
The Rumble Strips, Pull Tiger Tail, and The Little OnesEdit this event
Still not concerned that these are lean times for exciting new music? One look at tonight's bill should convince you otherwise, as despite the obvious potential of each of the four artists on parade, it's probably fair to say that none of them are anywhere near the stage of being real headline material in their own right for a venue of this size.
Even more worrying is the fact that Blood Red Shoes, the only real 20 minutes of genuine excitement out of the quartet of acts, are pushed onto the stage at the ridiculously early time of 7pm. The venue’s not exactly full: most punters are probably still getting ready, watching Harry Hill describe how someone couldn't possibly have accidentally filmed themselves whilst falling backwards into next door's fish pond.
Although only a handful of singles old, Blood Red Shoes seem to have been around ages. The dynamics between Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell translate as a less ravaged, spunkier Kills without the oh-so-obvious look-at-us-we're-junkies-isms. Almost.
Next up it's the turn of The Little Ones, a band so enthusiastically happy it's almost impossible to not like them on face value alone. Witnessing a set alters these feelings, though: their meandering easy-listening plods make it difficult to form any real opinion at all, other than that of nonplussed bewilderment. Anyone for the American Athlete? Me neither. Next...
It's a long time - almost a decade in fact - since Antihero burst out of Stratford-Upon-Avon seemingly intent on being the next Manic Street Preachers, alongside the likes of Kinesis and Miss Black America.
Now with a member shorn and major record company backing from B-Unique, plus a change of name to Pull Tiger Tail, maybe the Men Formerly Known As Antihero will enjoy the success their initial sparks of fury deserved.
Or will they? While Pull Tiger Tail have two bona-fide killer pop tunes in 'Mr 100%' and 'Animator', it really is hard to see - for all their undoubted energy - what else they have to offer at this moment in time. Sure they seem excited, almost too much for what blurts out of the speakers for the most of the set, but at times the reference points are just a little too obvious. It's certainly now or never for Pull Tiger Tail, as they are fast becoming veterans (whatever incarnation they choose to use) without ever really mastering their craft.
You really do wonder at this stage if all four bands drew straws during soundcheck, with the ones with the shortest having to go on last.
The Rumble Strips do seem to be almost instantly recognisable by way of the fact I bet everyone has seen them at least half-a-dozen times this year without being able to remember a great deal other than the fact they sound a lot like Searching For The Young Soul Rebels-era Dexys Midnight Runners.
So this is what it sounds like when the country's perennial support band(s) have to stand on their own two feet - average, Joe.
Sure, they do have some nice tunes in there ('Hate Me You Do', 'No Soul' and 'Motorcycle' particularly) but really, they do push the Xerox police to the absolute limit at the best of times, while their cover of Thin Lizzy's 'The Boys Are Back In Town' is, quite frankly, horrible.
By the end of the set, the familiarity factor of their material means they achieve a borderline pass (only just, mind), but if they're going to make the transition to headlining venues like this on a regular basis, they're really going to have to up their game somewhat. That almost certainly will involve listening to a few records that Kevin Rowland did not appear on, no matter how difficult that may prove to be.
Blood Red Shoes photo courtesy of Toby Price
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