Ungdomskulen, Vuk, The Good The Bad
Vuk and The Good the BadEdit this event
The Nordic nations, it seems, are disproportionately wealthy – both in actual, financial terms as well as in musical terms. A total population of around 26 million has resulted in more high-quality artists in recent years than you could hope to shake a stick of Silver Birch at. Tonight brings three more to London's Lexington, one act apiece from Norway, Denmark and Finland.
Firstly Finland; catching Vuk's ghostly presence is a pleasant, if not unrewarding and slightly underwhelming experience. It's rarely going to be easy to connect with the audience and your backing band when you're facing away from them all, as we see and hear. It all just feels a bit anti-social, a problem exacerbated by the three-metre plus gap those at the front decide to leave, coupled with the bottlenecking occupation of the entrance to the lower, closer, tier – leaving many a more distant, and more buffeted existence than they'd perhaps have liked.
Next up: The Good The Bad are a three-piece without a proper bassist, instead utilising either a) a baritone guitar or more likely b) an octave lowering pedal, a la Jack White. This works, allowing a level of movement a more cumbersome instrument would not. The microphones on either side of the stage are red herrings, there to mislead, remaining unused, aside from the odd exclamation of “bullshit!” as the set approaches its end. They are cool – or at least it seems as though they like to think they are – with sickeningly skinny jeans, ill-fitting (read: not suitable for anyone with a physique heftier than 'waif-like') shirts and floppy-droppy hair. With their delivery of straightforward, hard, hot and heavy rock 'n' roll, there's little to fault, near total lack of vocals aside. Original they may not be, impressive they certainly are.
The easily misspellable Ungdomskulen are also lacking in the 'bass' department with a similar set-up to TGTB. This is disappointing, though hardly an unforgivable sin. Someone surely must get a shipment of the four-stringed things over to Scandinavia at once, that poor girl from Serena Maneesh already has too much pressure on her not insubstantially sized shoulders.
What this Bergen three-piece do is make a brand of prog-ish rock that is quick and almost infuriatingly danceable. My feet leave the ground on several occasions, though only one at a time. I guess you could almost say they make the unfashionable fashionable by cutting out the uncertainty of those meandering jams and replacing it with an overwhelming sense of direction and purpose. Whilst The Rapture are undoubtedly several hops, skips and jumps away, there remains a certain, if distant, similarity and one that's not just down to the liberal use of the cowbell.
Opening with 'Sleep Over Beethoven', it takes not much more than its strained introduction before the wibble and wobble of the bass unites with forceful beats and vocals just-the-right-side-of-peculiar. To return to the previous musical reference, the all-too-brief chorus (“It's the birth of a certainty!”) is rapturous, and is the final piece in the jigsaw created by the verse and breaks. A surprising near-fondness of melody breaks out in 'Idunno', along with the aforementioned affinity for the cowbell. Unlike on Bisexual + Bonus, however, they avoid the slow down and stay at the pounding pace they'd reached beforehand. Praise be.
All the time this continues, there remains still something faintly ridiculous about them, mainly in the way that, whilst they undoubtedly give the 'footballer's 110%', they appear not to take themselves too seriously. The facial hair of two thirds of the band should be filed under both 'comedic' and 'astounding'; Kristian sporting the fullest pair of 'burns seen this side of the American Civil War and 'bassist' Frode channelling Billy Childish at approximately 65% full power, said 'tache accompanied by a jacket of an almost distasteful amount of spangliness. It's kind of similar, in a way, to the way pro darts players go about their business, with nicknames like 'The Matchstick', having Motorhead as walk-on music, strutting out with a model on each arm, all propped up against the Very Serious Business of playing for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Wait! It has been hard to get this far and not mention the drummer - gurning constantly, just like he should - who has an astoundingly high ride cymbal. How he reaches it with consistency I'm not sure, but 'Modern Drummer' is predictably his track, rimshot after rimshot precipitating upon us all. I'm unaware of what they're putting into the water in Norway – or even what they're drinking, but I would very much like a glass of it. Perhaps even a homoeopathic overdose. Plus, I'm in need of a remedy – their outright grooviness killed my left ear, temporarily at least. As you were, cochlea.
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