There can be fewer places less ‘ROCK’ than Oxford Street on a wet, Wednesday night, save perhaps for Doncaster. This could explain why opening act Fake Ideal made the long journey south to strut their stuff in front of a half-empty venue. Despite the sparse crowd, they played with a hunger and self-belief, a healthy dash of early The Who and moves ripped from the current school of rock (The Strokes, The Hives et al). With a haircut here or there and a dose more attitude they could be strong candidates for minor league indie stardom.
Second on the bill were the Martini Henry Rifles; crazy name, crazy guys, really. Sadly, every time I started to enjoy their set, their lead singer opened his mouth and ruined it all. A hideous squawk that distracted from the brutal racket the band was making, we were lucky for the guitarist doubling up on vocal duties. When he took to the mic, it was at least possible to enjoy the band without wincing. By the time they’d finished, the venue had filled up and we were ready for the main event.
Mclusky finally took to the stage, and it was soon all too evident what their CD collection was made up of. To say the Pixies or Nirvana were influences would be slightly understating the case. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, of course. After all, if you’re going to steal, it may as well be from the best, but in the wall of sound they produced, McLusky seemed to have forgotten the tunes. What made Frank Black and Kurt Cobain such good songwriters was that they were writing pop music, admittedly bloody hard and loud pop music, but still pop music.
When they pulled out the big hooks, as on the last single To Hell With Good Intentions, they suddenly looked like the contenders they’re being talked up as. But all too often they failed to energise the listless crowd. A small group at the front made some half-hearted attempts to get a mosh pit going, but the biggest cheer of the night went to the guy who climbed onstage to berate the crowd for being “boring Londoners”. As the final notes rang out, the bassist dropped his guitar to the floor, a look of contempt on his face.
With their Steve Albini-produced album Mclusky Does Dallas set to drop in April, it was a shame that they just didn’t seem to pull it off here. They’ve got the songs, that’s for sure, but tonight something was just missing.