Corsica Studios, intimately nestled beneath a railway arch in the midst of an oh-so-glamorous industrial estate somewhere in the darkest depths of Elephant and Castle, provides an appropriate venue for the launch of Birmingham’s masters of doom and gloom’s ninth album. The simple whitewash offers a blank canvas for Pram’s signature stage performance accompaniment of peculiar movie out-take projections.
The stage, dwarfing the tiny venue, seems to be hosting a competition for the most obscure instruments possible – just the thing for Pram‘s beard-stroking, avant-garde fan base demographic. But none of these are needed for support which opens with the dandy Pete Um. For his performance all you get is an MP3 player and his dapper little self. “They’re paying me by the song tonight,” he quips in reference to his repertoire of copious very short and very sweet tracks. As he staggers around the stage, beer swilling in hand, the crowd is littered with baffled faces as for each track Um seems to be possessed by someone different, commencing with a suspiciously accurate impersonation of Beck, through to a mean David Bowie interpretation.
Next it’s the turn of Serafina Steer to charm this crowd of die-hard fans waiting for the main performance of the evening. Serafina takes to the stage and is dwarfed by the mammoth harp she angelically strums at. Angelic you say? This girl can swear like a sailor. Her dainty singing will unfortunately draw comparisons to Kate Nash due to its cutesy pop tinge but this girl is good, really good. It’s difficult to ask for anything more when beautiful harp music is juxtaposed with a gutter mouth in one fell swoop.
The crowd thickens as Pram finally take to the stage to showcase new album The Moving Frontier. The witty banter seen earlier with Um is all we’re going to get as Pram are typically Pram; no crowd interaction, just a run through their melancholic electronica that their fans are enchanted with. For those new to Rosie Cuckston and company, the accompanying projections provide welcome relief from the inaction on stage. There is playing it cool and effortless, and then there is downright stab-your-eyes out for some form of entertainment dull. This performance unfortunately leans towards the latter.
But for Pram lovers this performance hits the spot, as it is Pram’s style that has secured their loyal fan base for the past 17 years. Yet on tonight’s evidence they’re unlikely to add to it.