Live Music + Gig Reviews

S.C.U.M. @ Electrowerkz, London

13 July 2011

If S.C.U.M. are really ditching Shoreditch and reinventing themselves as a band worthy of Mute’s trust in them, no one told the crowd at Electrowerkz. Moustaches, high waistlines, button-up shirts, thick lenses and exposed ankles abound, mingling with the liggers and families. With a celebrity girlfriend in tow and the creator of the Underage Festival – with musician Dad to boot – on keyboards, tonight they must prove they can reach beyond this kind of guestlist-heavy gathering.

First up are the impossibly youthful Advert, who have borrowed S.C.U.M.’s drummer, and their sound too. They would doubtless be horrified to learn that one of their dirges sounds awfully like a Coheed and Cambria song, but it’s just one of many moments that lead you to suspect a less fashionable past lies not far behind their bony backs.

The Yuck-approved The History Of Apple Pie‘s guitarists seem determined to make life difficult for petite singer Steph Min, who struggles gamely against the din yet frequently falls flat. But underneath the cacophony, in the dreamy pyschedelia of Tug and Before You Reach The End, there is all the hidden poppy promise of a shifty Afghan farmer.

As S.C.U.M. appear, a drape hangs over centre stage, billowing up like a windyman in front of a car showroom. Behind it stand the dodgy second-hand goods, in clothes ranging from acceptable to criminal. And then, the most singularly irritating poser to have fronted a band in recent memory steps up. Prancing around like a hipster Louis Spence, playing invisible airborne harps, falling to his knees and grabbing the drapes like a swooning starlet, the whole act is contrived beyond all reason.

Great frontmen just do it without thinking. Good frontmen artfully conceal the unspontaneity of their act. Watch Tom Cohen and you’ll see his eyes waver sidewards every half-minute or so, as he decides what to do next.

His only audible utterance tonight is to claim “I just had deja vu to a dream I had three years ago, so we must be doing something”. Tom, dear, if you can identify the source and date of the past event, then it isn’t deja vu. It’s just remembering. It takes something to be the bimbo of a relationship with a woman last seen declaring her love for Scientology in a tense battle of wits with Fearne Cotton, but it’s his only impressive achievement tonight. His voice aims for a dramatic Lou Reed-esque gravity but sounds like a Bryan Ferry impersonator heard through thick walls, and not a single arresting melody or sound escapes his lips throughout the whole tortured affair.

The rest of the band do their bit in stoic stillness, the drum outbursts on Summon The Sound a rare highlight. The crowd clap and whoop at the end of songs but show little enthusiasm during them. And hanging over it all, like Patrick Moore in Gamesmaster, you can dimly see the bloated face of Colonel Kurtz, whispering his dying words to the hipsters below. “The HorrorsThe Horrors…”

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S.C.U.M. @ Electrowerkz, London