Live Music + Gig Reviews

Aqualung @ Ginglik, London

14 August 2007

Ginglik is a tiny mouthful of a bar stuck on a traffic island in the land of traffic islands, Shepherds Bush. A converted public toilet, it begs the lazy hack to use some kind of toilet metaphor in any review. Can I resist? I’ll see how lazy I’m feeling towards the end.

Buying two bottles of Corona (5.60) I was informed that for 10 i could have four – a saving of 1.20 no less. I have a sharp eye for a bargain and took them up on the spot. Later on, slightly pissed and rooting around in my pockets for the 1.20 I had supposedly saved, Aqualung showed up.

Touring to promote new album Memory Man, released in the UK later on this month, Aqualung (Matt Hales and friends) have been keeping a low profile in the UK recently. Strange and Beautiful, which is the one you might remember him for, was released way back in 2002; commercial success followed stateside, but not too many have picked him up in the UK. There might be a reason for that.

Ginglik will be described by everyone as an “intimate” venue, which means it has a low ceiling. With the fan cooler on at full blast and a pretty modest, quiet crowd, it felt like the kind of intimacy you get on an aeroplane.

Hales does a nice line in dry wit, bantering with the crowd, and didn’t fail to pick that up, whilst reeling out the vaguely humorous songs the like of which Bill Bailey and Jasper Carrott like to pad their sets. “Does the world really need another piano song” he mumbles, in one of his comedy interludes. Well, quite. But yours are all piano songs, aren’t they? It’s almost a Keane tribute band for Chrissakes.

This is where the problems begin. Aqualung can do powerful, uplifting, thumping tracks – they just don’t seem to want to. Instead they slip into mawkish, overblown, tinkling rituals which a lot of the sparse crowd were checking their watches through.Worse, I had the feeling that Hales was doing the same. Earnest piano rock, if it can work, only works if artist and audience take it incredibly seriously (a sort of Spiritualized level of seriously). How are we supposed to if he can’t?

A bizarre rant about the Red Hot Chili Peppers rather gives the game away (a band Hales accuses of playing “dreary funk” with one decent album). Aqualung can’t quite understand why they haven’t turned into Coldplay – and are instead forced to eat humble pie in the smaller venues on Tuesday nights. Why do 70,000 people show up to listen to funk and there are only 17 listening to my piano?

Perhaps the world has worked out that the last thing we need is another f***ing Coldplay. Forgettable, self-indulgent pap that belongs (sorry) in the toilet.

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More on Aqualung
Aqualung – 10 Futures
Aqualung – Magnetic North
Aqualung @ Ginglik, London
Aqualung – Still Life
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