Official Secrets Act (with Alex White) Paard van Troije, Den Haag 04/06/09
Now I ain’t one for teen-pop. And if it hadn’t been for Incendiary’s good chum Alex White (he of ESP/Brakes/Restlesslist fame) playing keyboards, I doubt whether I’d have put in an appearance. But you know, expectations are there to be confounded, and I have to say that I really like this lot, especially as a live act.
As usual with the Paard, almost no-one had turned up (one really wonders about the promotions team here), and I had the sneaking suspicion that not that many people had paid. Ho hum…
Official Secrets Act are a band who are all about pop, pop of the plaintive, yearning variety, pop that is popular with dreaming girls in bedrooms. They have a number of songs that sound just like Roddy Frame numbers (no bad thing), and there are moments when they definitely nod their sonic heads towards Bowie at his most theatrical. Despite the band’s face paint, there’s none of the Dame’s sleaziness or suggestiveness, but what they lack in shadow, the band make up for in energy and attack. After a set of crowd pleasing, radio friendly openers, (which do make the difference in an under-populated venue) the band had a brief cameo where they rocked out (Mr White adding his no-nonsense guitar part to beef things up) and showed a much looser, more brazen side to them which I hope they develop.
They also do a mean turn in teenage melancholy, best seen in their track in Bloodsports, (the highlight of the gig for me) which had a considerable amount of the Associates or John Foxx about it.
This is all good. The sand in the vaseline for me was the feeling that the gig fell into segments all too easily. Maybe this judgement isn’t fair considering they a had a stand in on the keys (albeit an extremely able one), but I’d like to see them really play off the cuff, really get into a mood, enjoy the feeling of fucking up, enjoy the idea of being indifferent to the audience, rather than use each song as a sort of Grande Masque in which the opportunity to run through a set of prescribed parts is not to be missed.
All in all, a surprisingly enjoyable night, made all the better by one of the daftest interviews I’ve ever heard. But that’s another story.
Words: Richard Foster