Ah. It ain’t like it used to be. All this DIY aesthetic has really achieved is that bands just don’t look like bands anymore. Two thirds of the bill tonight looked like they had just wandered in off the street and picked up the instruments – it wasn’t until Hot Club De Paris had played about a song and a half that most realised they were in fact performing, and not just roadies doing an elaborate soundcheck. But in one of those book/cover escapades we’re always hearing about, the one act that looked vaguely like a musical outfit were easily the least appealing.
Emo. Starsailor. Violins. None of these things are *bad* in themselves, (well, apart from Starsailor and emo), but as Story One proved, squash ’em all together and problems will arise. A strange and not altogether pleasant mix of James Walsh’s mouth-wide-open yearn and horrible self-pity and actually quite good violin bits, they really weren’t the best introduction to the night. Blow Up Metro, the banner behind them proclaimed, and at the time it seemed like the best of all brilliant ideas.
Hot Club De Paris from Liverpool, as they insisting on referring to themselves, as though they were worried we were going to confuse them with Hot Club De Paris from Croydon, were next. And were better. Like The Futureheads if they’d been inspired to sing by watching Liza Minelli in Cabaret, they did jittery guitars with added a cappella and bonus beatboxing with some aplomb. And if they keep coming up with song titles like Sometimesitsbetternottostickbitsofeachotherineachotherforeachother they’ll go plenty far.
Generally, when the unsigned metamorphosed into the signed, madness ensues. Especially when you’ve spent the last six months getting all manner of people very excited on the other side of the pond. Now the proud owners of a spangly new contract from XL, Tapes ‘n Tapes surfed into their first ever UK show on the back of a huge wave of hype, at least part of it garnered from a show stealing appearance at SXSW.
Which is always off-putting. But not their fault. Setting that aside, they’re clearly a band with ideas to burn. Mostly other people’s ideas, but as Oscar Wilde said, talent borrows, genius steals. And tonight, when Insistor was wheeled out, and the whole thing came across like The Shadows being dragged off the edge of a cliff while the members of Black Flag got drunk on Guinness and held a hooley on the precipice, Tapes’N’Tapes sailed gloriously close to genius.
The influences are there for all to see (Pixies, Pavement, maybe a hint of The Rapture?), but when you play your deliciously offbeat slant on wiry punk with enough energy and passion to get a back-combed Shoreditch mullet dancing, then you’ve got to be doing something right.
Tonight, it wasn’t quite the second coming that our Transatlantic neighbours had promised, but there’s no doubt that they could yet deliver what those initial expectations promised – particularly live. And if that’s allowed to happen, we could well be asking Tapes ‘n Tapes to re-record, not fade away.