"Quite apart from their peculiar brand of dour charm they’re the only band who I reckon could get away with appearing on Last of the Summer Wine in an entirely non-ironic way. Simply put, whatever they do won’t change them as an entity. "
The Long Blondes – Melkweg, Amsterdam 23/04/08
Ah the Long Blondes. Are hipsters supposed to care anymore, now that they’ve gone all arty on our asses? Well this correspondent cares not a jot. Quite apart from their peculiar brand of dour charm they’re the only band who I reckon could get away with appearing on Last of the Summer Wine in an entirely non-ironic way. Simply put, whatever they do won’t change them as an entity. Other acts change styles because record companies dictate it. The Long Blondes do it because it’s part of their inherently cussed make up. However, people loved them for their empathic, bedroom-mirror muse, their ability to give concrete shape to teenage self-pity. Not scratchy post-industrial art-rock; a factor that made the audience’s reaction to their Melkweg show all the more interesting.
That the band has come on leaps and bounds live is there for all to see. Confidence is such that drummer Screech seems content to show the world a set of shorts that could be seen at camping grounds throughout the 1960s. Round the Hairpin is first up, a harbinger of the brave new world they inhabit. The audience seem quite satisfied with this turn of events, especially as it quickly segues into a great version of Weekend Without Makeup, one of the more assured live tracks from the first LP.
The Blondes employ a gutsier, spacey sound redolent of Magazine in their pomp and I have to say it doesn’t half suit them. Gone is the treble-heavy guitar, gone are the half-hearted attempts to fit keyboards in (replaced by the employment of Emma on a splendid futuristic contraption) and more attention paid to the inner workings of a track’s dynamics. It’s as if deconstructing what they are about as a band, what makes them tick is high on the Blondes’ agenda. Good. Proof was further given with Autonomy Boy, which sounded absolutely great, rip-roaring, almost like a new song. It always had something, but I thought it was always sounded a little half-hearted live. Now it’s beginning to mature into a staple of the set. The determined mood is kept up with a ruthless quartet of Erin O Connor, Here Come the Serious Bit, Separated by Motorways and I Liked the Boys; lean brassy pop work-outs that have a teeny bit of Northern Soul in their make up (I’d love to see if they could explore that avenue).
The real development in the Long Blondes as a live band was noticeable in the rendition of criminally neglected single Century, which is a glacier-cool pop song, muscular and sexy and a blueprint for their future music. If only it went on a little longer. The same could be said about Too Clever by Half, which could have kept the audience grooving away for an extra 15 minutes or so, had it wanted to. This inbuilt groove and attention to letting the inherent spaces in their songs breathe was best seen in a blistering version of Guilt, possibly their greatest song to date; that its sassy strut could again be developed into something much more extreme than the recorded version is something I hope the Blondes consider. Pop vignettes are great, but there’s only so many you can write.
It must have been a good night; the much maligned Once and Never Again got played (maybe it was short straw night, who knows?). Rumbustuous takes on I’m Going to Hell, Giddy Stratospheres and the (dated sounding?) Lust in the Movies was a suitable ending.
Upwards and Onwards.
Words: Richard Foster
Pics: Mariska van den Hoven