Like napalm drenched ‘nam veterans, the average age tonight is nineteen. That’s what is scrawled on clipboards of mailing lists, jabbed under chins after every song. Unsurprising, really. After all, this is part of Vice Magazine’s student tour. A free, musical treat for the poor, scholarly teens that spent their last pennies on study aids, bad weed and mince meat. At least, that’s the theory.
Good books certainly fit the part. Shabby oiks with glasses and puppy fat. On course for a First Class Honours in pop, they even have a library’s worth of thoughtful indie dance to present… so who let in the trendy mob of designer clad mongers?
Perhaps students these days are exclusively the children of landed aristocracy or drug barons? Either way, most people are getting more worked up by the sight of a particularly jagged Toni and Guy trim than the opening bleeps from the stage. Not that the band cares. It was probably a similar crowd that originally inspired them to sack off a night down the union, lock the door and carve out their first E.P, Valves and Robots.
Heads down, hunched over moogs and guitars, Walk With Me flits on a lyrical tightrope of heart-sunken loneliness and spirited defiance. It is classic Anglo-pop. And each song begs for a raise in tempo. The synths filter in and out over the meticulously sharpened melodies. It’s like The Kinks, Small Faces and The Smiths fleeing a club, having a change of heart and sheepishly returning for one last, awkward dance. And still the onlookers remain unmoved. Quite literally. At best, there is a handful of fleeting dancer, bobbing between lines of stationery corpses.
On live favourite Passchendaele, the cracks begin to show. A red cheeked Max mutters something about Friday night, doing his best to remind everyone that there is not much point spending six hours dressing up only to aimlessly shuffle on the spot until closing time. Things begin to get going with latest release, Leni. It could be the Kafka-inspired lyrics, but it more than likely the irrepressible stabs of Christmas No 1-sized piano chords that finally melt away the dazed pretension.
Still grinning and absorbed in their own tunefulness, the set merrily ploughs on to the end. There are no encores. Just a lingering sense of a missed opportunity.
GoodBooks. Great gig. Shit crowd.