Imagine Lloyd Cole having got together to tour with The Ramones, or perhaps Belle and Sebastian with the White Stripes. A night of stark contrasts came together in this central Newport venue to make for an understated yet, when you think about it, outstanding show of indie ingenuity, a man puzzlingly forgotten by the UK provinces supported by a sibling threesome set to absolutely conquer.
If I’m not mistaken, you can count the alternative rock bands to have come out of Chepstow on the joint of one thumb, yet the emphatically named Bitchpups breathe the fire of a tremendously liberal array of influences, seemingly benefiting no end from the lack of any kind of hometown scene. Name-checking esoteric rock bands [Matt Melvins, Kyuss, Mr Bungle] as foreign to their climate as belly-dancers, they have a freshness and originality that lends their songs a vital spark.
Bitchpups lead singer and guitarist Matt Modget has the physical stamp and intense emotional demeanour of Jack White, at one point in the gig marching robustly to the very back of the venue during a protracted guitar solo with the air of an inspired virtuoso. His sister Hannah is a bass-playing angel from hell, in between her sensational bassery and keyboard shtick even managing to smile witheringly at some skinheads who’ve made their way to the front to ogle her like she’s the first leather-boot-clad femme fatale rock goddess they’ve ever seen.
Darren Hayman, of course, is an altogether different proposition, and the lads don’t seem to care about him at all. Indeed, it seems the legacy of Hayman’s old band Hefner remains a strictly London phenomenon. Yet the few people who do take notice are treated to a set of old and new songs to die for.
The trademark lyrical lust and intelligence remains in Hayman’s solo work, with songs like Everything’s Wrong All the Time and You Chose Me not a million or even two miles away from the erudite thrills of Hefner staples like Painting and Kissing or The Librarian, while epic oldie The Sad Witch speaks in the language of timeless indie genius of years gone by, but never to be forgotten.
A night of the romantic and the raw, richly informed with indie magic. The Meze Lounge was the place to be on Saturday night.