Live Music + Gig Reviews

N*E*R*D + Kenna + Chester French @ KOKO, London

1 July 2008



How exactly do you loosen a bra? Isn’t it one of those things which is either on or off? Kind of a binary deal? But tonight, when Pharrell Williams requests the ladies do this, they all just scream, rather than quizzically raising an eyebrow and asking him exactly what the fuck he means.

At times like this it’s easy to dislike N*E*R*D. Easy to dismiss them as a horrible ego-stroking exercise for a bunch of halfway talented producers surrounded by such a gaggle of fawning yes-men that they haven’t realised that the Emperor isn’t just naked, he’s doing community service and has been banned from going within a 100 metre radius of all secondary schools.

But not always. There was no such ambiguity about Chester French. Who were unmitigated shite from over-produced start to over-sanitised end. Imagine Doogie Howser M.D. fronting a fraternity project pop band and you wouldn’t be too far from the horrific truth.

The reasoning behind allowing them to play for what seemed an eternity, and only offering Kenna a pitiful 25 minutes, was inexplicable. Kenna was light years ahead, injecting some energy and innovation (briefly) into proceedings before being shunted off to make way for Pharrell and, uh, the other two. Who frankly no one really cares about.

Because, it’s Pharrell with the cheekbones. Pharrell with the million dollar charisma. Pharrell with what looks to be nearly a million dollars’ worth of diamonds in his ears. It’s also Pharrell with the propensity to slip into the horrible cod-funk falsetto and screw up the whole thing.

Oh yes, at times it’s so easy to dislike N*E*R*D. Every time they slip into ’70s-disco-funk, with added sexy-sex-sex (see Backseat Love, Fly Or Die, She Wants To Move) it’s dreadful. A horrible pastiche of something that you could hear down your nearest cruise ship.

And yet, battering up against that, you’ve got Anti Matter – rattling around on this two-step beat which mutates more rapidly than bird flu on safari at Chernobyl. Or Spaz, defying all logic and political correctness by sounding exactly like a Macintosh having a mental background. It’s futuristic, witty and leaves KOKO a swaying mess.

Although it’s nothing compared to quite how spectacular both Lapdance and Rockstar sound; the former grimier than a weekend mud-wrestling in Bognor and the latter showing quite how coruscating N*E*R*D can be.

It’s a strange blend then, of good and not. You get the vague impression that what N*E*R*D would really benefit from is someone to tell them what works and what doesn’t. You know, like some kind of shit-hot producer… If only they knew someone to fit that bill.

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More on N*E*R*D
N*E*R*D – The Best Of
N*E*R*D – Nothing
N*E*R*D + Kenna + Chester French @ KOKO, London
N*E*R*D – Seeing Sounds
N*E*R*D – Fly Or Die