"Suddenly, after the music was all over, Incendiary got its second wind and decamped to a bar of choice with some band or other to talk about Evelyn Waugh and cheese. Weird eh? "
London Calling part 2 - Paradiso, Amsterdam - 1/04/06
Shall we just begin this review of the second day by saying that the morning found us all rather tired and emotional. Certainly the delayed 5am train from Amsterdam didn't help, and those members of the Incendiary team who chose sleep over the interminable "keep awake or we'll miss the fucking train" games found only meagre comfort from a cold concrete platform floor. Still, some of us had perked up enough by the mid afternoon to venture forth to the Paradiso (by way of some of Amsterdam's more picturesque taverns). By the time we arrived at the august doors of that venerable institution Incendiary had already been sufficiently entertained. Therefore we can only apologise to Larrikin Love as we were not at our best. The band seemed on great form and there's no denying that Eddie Larrikin has considerable talent and presence. The rockabilly-folk sound that Mr L has chosen to accompany his muse was intriguing, though, as it immediately put me in mind of the famous image of La Semeuse (the sower) who regularly appeared on French postage stamps of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. La Semeuse is portrayed as a figure scattering seeds to the wind with an action of some abandon. You get the feeling that some of the seeds will fail to germinate, such is the lack of care on her behalf; indeed some of the seedlings seem lost to the wind already. And that, (to bring a bloody long metaphor to an end) is the image I associated with Larrikin Love. The band generates tons of ideas, gestures and forays into various styles, but precious little mental/artistic discipline underpins or develops them. It's sad as they have a lot of potential. At present it all sounds very anecdotal and in need of a more defined, tougher muse. Still, they have something, no doubt.
After this we trudged downstairs to see The Long Blondes. I have a soft spot for this lot, as the introduction to one of their songs sounds incredibly like Orange Juice's Blue Boy; a flippant reason, I know. Still, it's enough of a reason. A strange gig this one, as their quiet rather strummy sound is one built (so far) for more intimate surroundings and slightly camp, self-aware UK audiences. In the Paradiso's main hall (full of uncomprehending Dutch and drunk, bleary-eyed ex-pats) the band seemed a little bemused, going through a series of on-stage movements and gestures that reminded one of wind up toys. Once they'd warmed to the place however, (just in time for Once and Never Again) the gestures became more arch and loose and they allowed their essential tunefulness to take over. For there is no doubt that The Long Blondes possess a set of very engaging tunes. I do like their DIY attitude to their music, as it lends a very earthy, friendly atmosphere to a concert, with their mix of empathic songs and raucous, pouting charm; a commodity that shouldn't be ground out of them. Maybe they need to work on their dynamics, as the sound sometimes just settles down and sits comfortably in the middle lane without troubling to push itself. Still, it's a minor quibble in the face of a very enjoyable set. And fair play too, they got the crowd going.
Off we trotted for Good Shoes who are frighteningly young and definitely look it. Indeed, if ever an example was needed of a band that didn't look like a band and wouldn't be believed if they said they were a band (due to age reasons) then Incendiary would proffer Good Shoes. Actually they were great in a way I am at a loss to explain. They are metronomically tight and incredibly tinny, which for some reason is very beguiling in a Live at the Witch Trials way. Maybe it is the total lack of artifice in promoting a sound that has been pretty well plundered these last few years. No poses are pulled, no attempts are made to sound out from anyone else, just simple songs about teenage matters. Maybe its just naivety on their behalf, I don't know, it works. I did like it when he asked "does anybody actually know who we are, except those from Norden?" Oh, and by the way their bass player is absolutely amazing.
Back to the main hall and a rare chance to pick a spot for Howling Bells. The band's music brings back a very specific sound, namely that lush, languorous sweep so beloved of the Triffids or Ed Kuepper in his more grandiose moments. The guitarist has enough of a William Reid fixation to give their 1987-esque sound a real edge. The set was for the most part, filled with really wistful, autumnal slow burners, very much in the style of Ultra Vivid Scene which was pretty brave to be honest. Thumbs up again then, to them from us. After Howling Bells we just couldn't face the crush that would inevitably accompany Kooks. And anyway, I'll be honest and say I don't even like them. So it was off to the bar and a quick chat to a Mystery Jet or two, who noticed & complemented the British Sea Power paraphernalia that adorned our jackets. Bless their good nature.
By this time the place was heaving, and the very idea of fighting our way into Humanzi filled us with such dread that we ran to the bar. Sorry Humanzi, we heard that you were very good.
Time eventually came for The Mystery Jets. I must admit I was a looking forward to seeing them, not that I'm a particularly big fan of their LP, which, (like the curate's egg) is good in parts, rather, word from friends back in Blighty was that they were good live. And, for a while, I was not disappointed. Like the previous evening, the volume for the main act had been turned up and suitably compressed giving the band's sound a pleasingly punchy feel, which certainly worked for the bonkers chanting opener Zoo Time which was magnificent. After that, Purple Prose was mad and anthemic, whilst The Boy Who Ran Away pounded along and was classic. Hey ho, I thought, its lift off. And You Can't Fool Me Dennis seemed to confirm this, much better than its recorded cousin, the live version was absolutely brilliant. Here goes, I thought. But sadly after that it merely became pleasant and rather well-bred, too good-mannered in an eccentric, John Cleese/Terry Pratchett way. I mean I enjoyed it a lot, but there was something very measured about the gig. God I dunno... maybe it was the band's preference for white shirts that gave it too much of a theatrical air. One shirt is enough or else you look like an Edwardian rowing team in repose lads. Or multiple Kenneth Brannaghs. I mean the music was great, especially Horse Drawn Cart and Alas Agnes - it just needed more thump, more space. There's a great band in there somewhere, let's just say the musical presentation just has to stop being so reasonable and be a bit more psychotic.
Suddenly, after the music was all over, Incendiary got its second wind and decamped to a bar of choice with some band or other to talk about Evelyn Waugh and cheese. Weird eh? Top night, if a leetle long.