Live Reviews

So So Modern @ Lexington, London

29 January 2010


The Lexington stands as a prime piece of old boozer estate, little changed from its guise as Victorian promise of recompense for hard day’s labour.

Tonight it plays host to a gaggle of youth and pseudo-youth: beards from Zone 2, Hipster spivs like retro fantasy bankers, even a couple of haircuts like Eraserhead on the electric chair, a quaint reminder that Jedwardian is the new tonsurial era, and that hard labour can be dreamt away in a flash of Cowell’s trousers.
All gather expectantly for three young men from New Zealand to wash away the cares of the week, to massage away reality, maybe even providing what an early So So Modern EP dubbed a ‘sythngasm’, a collective happy ending that would have made our Victorian forbears blush and reach for the half-written science ledgers.

With little science evident in his taped-up bank of rickety pop synths, Grayson Gilmour threatens to do an impression of Nice-era Keith Emerson then refrains modestly. His vocals are jabbered off into the distance, a thin slice on top of the antipodean synth krush of post-Avalanches and Modular Records, and the wiry post-punk guitars. They in turn cross-rhythmically joust with the shifting time sig of the sturdy live drums. The sound is brazen, brash, big and at times pleasingly ugly, because while being bracketed as a synth band there is more than a dash of deliberate post-punk awkwardness to them.

Announcing a track off the new album they launch into Berlin, a metronomic krautrock cartoon, with flashing glam highlights, like a Ratatat being dragged back to their absent guitars. A lot of the hard work being done is fretwork, the two guitars low Es turned up to fuzzy deluge, rendering much of their set a collection of energetically problematised garage songs.

As a band known for their emphasis on performance, an early trademark was the donning of white executioners’ cowls. But any former theatrical darkness is absent tonight. Gilmour, clean and preppy, looks every inch the hyper-glossy The OC boyhood indie dream. Leong resembles a Nashville gigolo in tight fitted denim, a lithe and tidy vision. They almost look like foreshadows of their own merchandising dolls (synths sold separately).

Yet these guys are hardly the type to succumb to commercial crassness. Their just-released debut album is billed on their website as ‘exploring the burden of optimism in a constantly apocalyptic reality’. As a response to late modernity their evident optimism seems brave, and to package it in a diverse and difficult but cats-cradle tight array of post-pop-punk, with an emphasis on campfire togetherness outside-the-crisis, should win them admirers.

Yet tonight’s boisterous set deserved better from a slightly diffident London crowd. It seems that although much of it may have started with the industrial revolution, it’s not going to finish in a sweaty pub in Islington. Somehow, that fact seems unlikely to deter them.


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More on So So Modern
So So Modern – Crude Futures
So So Modern @ Lexington, London


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