He’s that quiet guy in the corner who’s poetry could put the whole modern rock ‘n’ roll ethos to shame. She’s the girl who knows it and compliments it with her very being. The others are their intricate pals, and it’s like they’ve been kicking around piecing together humble bits of music for years and years, which of course they have. They’re called The Loves, and this is the party after the party the night before.
The last time I saw Cardiff’s finest it was like a youthful Woody Allen play in indie-pop colours. Remember the scene in Sleeper when Allen’s character repeatedly slips on a giant, genetically-modified banana skin when trying to get away from baddies? Well it was a bit like that, keyboardist Liz at one point memorably copping it round the head from singer Simon’s guitar as he attempted to turn up the raawk stakes and swing his guitar a bit. She was wearing a feather, looking blond and immaculate as usual, and it flew ten yards across the room.
Tonight we don’t get much in the way of such antics. Presumably the band is more relaxed after last night’s industry bash in London, where I hope all manner of mishaps took place without anyone getting hurt. The Loves are not natural performers in the way that the greatest actors are not, and tonight it really shows, bringing an extra ease to the set that if anything intensifies their quaint kind of romanticism. The new LP is an elaborate blast of retro anti-cool, and tonight its songs bounce out of instruments like the greatest accidents in the world.
No demands are made on the crowd. They’re just there like it’s the hundredth time they’ve seen it, casual friends, yet enthralled like the most enthusiastic strangers by the sounds. Simon is immaculately dressed in 60s-smart astronaut wear, and he orchestrates with hushed wonder. The quirky modern genius pop classics spurt out in kaleidoscopic colours, I My She Love You, Honey, and She’ll Break Your Heart Again abounding with heartbreak, love and affection as we succumb in easy unison. The Loves are a band that can never be totally triumphant, and their insanely upbeat numbers shine with an absolutely irresistible teary optimism.
Then there are the ballads, interspersed between like softer chocolates. The Rainbow Connection, live as on record, is as fragile as a straw house, and the crowd sing along in a hearty effort to keep it upright. Simon’s lyrics find their mark, “Somewhere we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me,” and Liz’s classic keyboard lines give an extra, magic aura of warmth to So Sad and Gimme Gimme The Good Times, both consummate blasts from the hearts of pure lovers.
I suppose being the perpetual support band in their hometown takes away a sense of responsibility that The Loves’ music just doesn’t need. But it does mean they don’t get to play those few extra nuggets that the crowd bay for. I personally wait in vain for the icing on the cake that would be Summertime, a boundlessly brilliant ode to sunshine from the new LP that right now would float me in the air like a helium balloon, but alas it never comes, and Clwb Ifor Bach slowly morphs back to its usual colours.
Back at the bar we all concur: The Loves are a band of magical, effortless poignancy, and their slow-burning legacy should someday yield fortunes.