The recent Dexys album was a stark reminder of how vital a splash of drama can be in pop music. Full of kitchen sink drama, explosive brass and lusty longing, it sounded like a band 30 years younger. There was a 27 year wait for that album, so it’s fair to say there’s something of a gap in the market.
Then along came Race Horses. Their first album, Goodbye Falkenburg, was released two years ago to little fuss. A revamped five-piece version of the Welsh band has dusted itself down, picked itself up, and come back with a blinder. Tonight’s the official launch show for that album, Furniture, and vinyl copies with lyrics beautifully printed on delicate tracing paper are floating around the Lexington before they even take to the stage. The crowd at tonight’s near sell-out show already know the album, and their whoops and cheers don’t go unnoticed by Race Horses, who have the understated confidence of a band many years their senior.
Singer Meilyr Jones, wearing a bowl cut and black velvet catsuit, looks every inch the New Romantic, and he throws that hyper-drama into his performance as well as his look. Choppy percussion signals their arrival with the album’s title track, and sets the tone for the show. More sophisticated synths and keyboards now take centre stage alongside the occasional burst of brass and even a harp, giving Jones’ disaffected vocals the perfect base.
Channelling Talking Heads with fellow Welsh bands Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Furniture is delightfully eccentric, pinching David Byrne‘s delivery with shuffling stop/start guitars and twinkling keys. Single My Year Abroad is somewhat darker; creeping and athemic. Bad Blood too has an unsettling undertone, for all its disco roots and synths. Jones has referred to Thomas Hardy and DH Lawrence as literary influences, and themes of lust, repression and frustrated misery are abound.
See No Green, a blistering synth-ballad, sees Jones kneeling on the floor, thrashing a bass drum, delivering the heart wrenching “I’m just a hotel, I’m just a place you stay.” He looks and sounds as vulnerable as his lyrics suggest, before changing tact and bitterly chanting “Oh you love us…” Even Sisters, initially their most straight forward song, has twists and turns in the shape of broken down harmonies.A seamless show that saw Race Horses prove that they’re ready to play with the big kids; they’re ready to be taken seriously…just not too seriously.