It was an evening compered by a radio DJ, a chap who seemed to be relying on the old adage of “you wouldn’t hit a man in glasses would you” to get his points across to the braying hordes squeezed into The Monarch. He introduced to us three bands – the first of these was a novel-sounding outfit featuring ragga vocals and a violin, but we only just caught the end of their set and missed their name.
The second band on had, we were told, come all the way from Sweden to play tonight. And play they did – Caesars belted out their first four numbers without so much as a pause for greeting. With a bassist who’d clearly shared the ancestry of EastEnders’ Garry, and a front man with a runaway perm and more than a passing resemblance to The Polyphonic Spree‘s eminently scary Tim DeLaughter, they were certainly an odd mix. Fast and furious was the order of their set – with one slow “ballad” aside, presumably included to show they could play slower if they really, really had to. The lead guitarist doubled up as a vocal harmony virtuoso, while the curly singer whacked his guitar off at the mildly impressed throngs before him. They were like an alternative Hives – without the showmanship or the daft suits. And therefore not quite as interesting. But here was music to annoy your neighbours with.
And then came an album showcase from Echoboy, aka Richard Warren. Looking a little dishevelled compared to his likeness on publicity posters stuck up around the place, and sporting a goatee, he appeared with a host of backing musicians. Starting with new album Giraffe‘s opening stomp, Automatic Eyes, the commitment was there from the off. Trouble was, of course, hardly anyone in the room had heard this track or any other from the new album, so there wasn’t much audience participation. The beats and the riffs of this and at least five other tracks are so infectious that, given time to grow, they will win their fans. Any of his long-term fans at this gig would have been disappointed though – he played just one old song, and that was in the encore.
As on the record, Warren’s vocals were distorted, making him sound for all the world like a particularly whiney Beck. Wasted Spaces and Good On TV (glocks and sinister-sounding vocals reminding of Clinic) cranked up the beat to somewhere post-industrial and had toes tapping, while slower tracks like Don’t Destroy Me were listened to attentively.
Those who’d left early were to miss out on a treat, however, when one of the album’s highlights – Lately Lonely – rounded off the encore. Like a marriage of labelmate Luke Slater‘s instrumentation with the kind of echoey vocals that’d sound at home in a Sisters of Mercy gig, Warren and his cohorts pushed the volume switch to maximum and wigged out. One hopes that by his next London appearance Echoboy will have won over many more hearts.