They may be showing a few extra wrinkles here and there and a whole lot less hair (aside from new keyboardist Bill), but heck, this is pop, and the old boys can still do it you know.
Cardiff’s indiepoppers tonight are out in force, braving the weather somewhere between the Caribbean and Arctic . First on is a cracking curiosity who goes by the name of Pagan Wanderer Lu. Now it’s been noted before that cold old electronica doesn’t lend itself that well to much humour, but the Wanderer’s wistfully surreal songs tend to hit a terrific mark between Moog-happy Darren Hayman and Ladytron, providing a pleasing half an hour of piquant tales and poignant pathos.
Next on the bill are Homescience, their cast augmented by The Loves’ leading man Simon. And it’s a strange departure for him from his regular band’s beatific retro pop, adding keyboard squelches and guitar riffs to his Brighton pals’ gritty pop/rock.
Homescience tonight promise everything in the world, but invariably frustrate, veering too far towards guitar-laden rock, guitars droning and choruses sapping when they should be bouncing off stars. It’s a slight disappointment with an inkling of hope, and if we could somehow attach frontman Andy to a drip feeding nothing but Voxtrot for the next week or two we’d have a pretty grand prospect.
At ten o’clock sharp it’s the moment we’ve been waiting for, and as Apples in Stereo kick into new LP opener Can You Feel It we’re transported into an alternate world of multi-layered Beach Boys-esque audacity, glittering and thundering like the windy night.
It’s a first time Apples experience for a lot of us, and terrifically we get no time to reflect on the fact, a blizzard of high-octane pop instantaneously sweeping us off into orbit. The Apples are really something these days, a wobbly-dancing troupe of wizened super-heroes (including one in appropriate uniform) firing off in an insane manner behind frontman Robert Schneider, who in turn is like Steve Malkmus inside the body of Danny Baker.
The songs roll out one after another, each one a sky-scraping, pulsating wonder that goes straight to the heart on turbo-boost. Skyway, Energy, Sunday Sounds, Beautiful Machine (Parts 1-2), 7 Stars and oh yes, Same Old Drag from the blasting, phenomenal new LP come as pristine bolts from indie-pop gods while old classic fly with non-sentimental abandon.
This is the Apples I thought I’d love, and as an orange contraption glows on Bill’s keyboard while he bounces along to its squelching notes like a Fraggle Rock extra, it acts as the symbol of a hundred captured hearts.