Live Music + Gig Reviews

Archie Bronson Outfit @ ICA, London

10 October 2006

Domino Records have enjoyed two chart topping albums this year – Franz Ferdinand‘s second and the Arctic Monkeys‘ first. The latter, lest we forget, was the UK’s fastest selling album of all time. So why have none of the sundry smiley faces who teeter into my orbit heard of these titans’ labelmates Archie Bronson Outfit?

As the raucous garage stomp of new single Cherry Lips is unleashed upon the British public (this week – go buy), Archie Bronson Outfit take to the artsy stage of the ICA for the first of two busy nights in support of second album Derdang Derdang. A record laid down during a trip to that hallowed ground of blues rockers everywhere, Nashville, Tennessee, they call it “British boogie”. Those there lips are second in the set that ignites, grows hotter, sets fire to the ceiling and refuses to be doused.

The first of several striking aspects of this band is their look – this is no typical scruffy rock three-piece in t-shirts. Singer-guitarist Sam Windett has fashioned a look of a young Darwin, with wavy blond hair severely parted atop a neatly bearded face and smart shirt. Between songs he pauses and pointedly takes his time to towel his brow. He looks like he’d be at home in a day job lecturing on medieval history. Mark Cleveland on drums might frequent a barber’s shop circa 1886 too, with a similarly tidy arrangement of facial hair.

Across the stage from the bassist, a saxes player (he plays two simultaneously, like the ambidextrous mutant he evidently is) displays a shoulder-length look. He later switches to something that resembles a clarion, and there’s an extra guitar in there somewhere. An occasional backing vocalist-dancer bounds on and off the stage throughout, grooving about like a young Patti Smith. And you don’t get much more rock’n’roll than that.

Archie Bronson Outfit have the music to match the panache. Cleveland is no ordinary drummer. Completely controlled, he’s the rhythm master of a slave ship rowed by Charlton Heston in Ben Hur, adding in cymbals to raise the stakes only when it feels like they can be raised no further. Windett, for his part, has a voice somewhere between strangulation and Arcade Fire‘s Win Butler. Emotive, yet tuneful, he has it all. Together the effect is rough-hewn, edgy. Enthralling.

Seven people are going wild at the front of the audience, bouncing about like their medication demands it. If medication is music, here is the response. The beardies and artsy trendies stroke chins and prop up walls. Is this an exhibition or a rock’n’roll gig? Maybe a Jab Jab in the ribs would get them bouncing. Dead Funny, maybe. (“Dead funny, don’t worry, just get your head down… I am a deep sea diver, I’m gonna dive down on you.” That there be Archie Bronson Outfit directness.) People not enwildened by single Darts For My Sweetheart – lyrically a deliciously evil number and musically as infectious as the ‘flu – are either bored journos or zombies.

Tracks from 2004’s debut Fur go down well with the fans at the front who’ve created their very own miniature mosh pit in a venue not known for such unbuttoned hedonism. In the middle of the set we’re treated to a cover of a Wanda Jackson song – I couldn’t make out what it was called – that confirmed Nashville’s influence on the band.

I’m with the seven people in front of the stage. Even if they’re likely to sell more of this bluesy riffing in the States, this Wiltshire/London blues rock needs Britain to listen, absorb, bounce along and shake its hips to it like a groovy thing. Then Archie Bronson Outfit will have what’s rightfully theirs. Make it happen.

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More on Archie Bronson Outfit
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Archie Bronson Outfit @ ICA, London
Archie Bronson Outfit – Derdang Derdang