Live Music + Gig Reviews

British Sea Power + GoodBooks + Pete And The Pirates @ 229, London

7 September 2007

King Kong is in London. Or so they would have us believe. A crowd are pressed against a wall – possibly designed by the Pentagon – listening to a muffled Fierce Panda compilation. Something is in there. Christ knows what. On cue the wall is dismantled from the inside. And then…

Nothing. Not so much as a banana. Instead, there is an empty stage. A lovely stage, all a glitter with Club Fandango logos. And we amble in, Dawn of The Dead style, all bemused and unsure whether it is safe to swing our Red Stripes.

Pete And The Pirates take to the stage with the expectancy of a shuttle launch. Which is fine, as who wants to go the moon when we have this sort of earth bound treasure? Unassumingly quirky and naturally tuneful, they come armed with songs about dancing feet and hooks that make your whole body wriggle like a hoisted carp. It is a bit like Good Shoes if they made you want to actually rip off your socks and leap about bare foot.

And yes, Pete sings, but so does another Pete. And the guitarist. The frontman is simply that – a man at the front with a tambourine and baseball cap. In fact, the whole band probably have seven albums worth of glorious hits, each. Combined it is faultless, with the sort of DIY ethic that should inspire a hordes of converts to buy an Argos guitar and leap on board their raggedy ship.

Goodbooks in many ways are exactly that – great on paper. Theirs is inherently intelligent, thoughtful pop. The keys bring to mind The Postal Service. The guitars and the jerking mic stand lunges could be New Order. They are lovelorn. Romantic. Witty. And they have anthems. So why it has the combined effect of a mild shrug is frankly baffling. Despite their defiant passion, it is vaguely depressing to watch. Nauseous, even. We are transported to a hellish purgatory of eternal break-ups as every promising note echos with ‘It is not you my dear, it’s me’.

British Sea Power used to be as eccentrically brilliant and nonsensically British as burning wicker effigies of Guy Fawkes, dunking biscuits in tea and rolling cheese down the dales. They were the band that sang tragic love songs to their favourite melting iceberg. They encouraged the audience to wave twigs and bracken. They had a man on stage in a giant bear costume.

That was then. The golden age. Now, things are different. Everything is sharper. More focussed. Competent. They ruthlessly plough through the new, streamlined material, only occasionally delving into their guilty past. So we occasionally feel hairs flicker on the back of our necks and remember how this silly bunch once put a lump in our collective throats. The rest is like indie privatisation and we’re left wondering what has become of our once magnificent and brutal nation.

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