In the age of geek chic, when the hipster uniform of choice consists of thick-framed glasses, skinny jeans and garish shirts, the days of awkward boys singing songs about unrequited love should be well over. The nerds’ revenge is complete – so where do we look for our anti-heroes? You could do worse than above a pub in north London, where three bands actively shunning fashionable sounds and looks are sharing the bill.
Openers Omi Palone have yet to release an album – they’ve just a five-track tape to their name – but have been quietly building a name for themselves on London’s indiepop scene for a couple of years now. Floppy haired, gangly and unable to resist the urge to drop to their knees and twiddle effects buttons – it’s not just their choice of release format that’s at odds with 2012. With Ian Curtis-esque opaque baritone vocals and Wedding Present’s lo fi guitars, they’re an energetic whirlwind of fuzz. They’d have shone on a different night. As would headliners, Let’s Wrestle.
Singer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez is your classic anti-hero. With a bowl cut and red checked shirt, he could’ve been lifted out of any decade from the last 70 years…just not this one. But Gonzalez revels in his outsider status, playing the joker (“It’s my Jimmy Savile jacket”, he quips) and belting out something of a greatest hits set, including We Are The Men You’ll Grow to Love Soon, Diana’s Hair and You’re So Lazy from their last album, the Steve Albini produced Nursing Home. The trio have swelled to a four-piece, giving them a heavier feel that doesn’t detract from their scruffy, brattish sound. Juddering, punky guitars, combined with a knowing smirk from Gonzalez, fuel what are essentially the ramblings of a teenage boy – they’re 20-somethings absolutely refusing to grow up. The same can’t be said for Tigercats, who debut a couple of new, distinctly more grown up songs tonight, stealing the show as they did it.
The East Londoners look like the kind of kids who’d have their pocket money pinched on a daily basis. Singer Duncan Barrett has a whiney drawl, they look like they’re all in different bands. But somehow it works. It’s not just the new songs, which bookend their set, that sound more considered and mature; other tracks are given a subtle smartening up too. Coffin for the Isle of Dogs is gifted an even slower, more creeping intro, the chants that close it are no longer spat out, while Kim & Thurston builds into a steady ball of fuzz – taking on board the aesthetics of its namesakes. They’re a band who’ve found their feet but hung on to their edge.
From indie disco favourites Limehouse Nights and Harper Lee to keyboard player Laura Kovic’s heart wrenching solo Jonny, they’re exhilarating and, as they embark on a musical stroll through the streets of the East End, their audience has no choice but to go with them to The Vapours’ “imaginary record store staffed by new wave one hit wonders” and the “trendy bar in Dalston” where the object of Barrett’s affections is “surrounded by idiots with ridiculous haircuts”, and then over to Hackney Downs with Konny Huck. This is modern, indie kid kitchen sink stuff – the fodder of our new anti-heroes, who know exactly how we’re all feeling.