Flying Matchstick Men/The Needles/Titus Gein/How To Swim – The Arches (6 December 2005)

There appear to be about twenty people in How To Swim, but I can’t really for the life of me work out why. Previously I’ve know a band that as soon as they found a female that could play any instrument they crow-barred them into their line-up. This has led to many a bizarre (and not particularly innovative) euphonium and washboard solos. Not that this seems to be the issue here. Maybe it’s a poor sound – hard to say when you’ve never seen the band before – but for all the strings and brass up there they sound like a regular guitar based four piece. Not a particularly impressive one, either. At least I don’t thinks so, hard to say when you’re completely distracted by the sheer number of musicians on the stage. Maybe that’s the idea.

Titus Gein are all about the riff. A metal trio with a belief in making it heavy. And, jolly good they are at it too. Oh, there’s enough touched of retro-keyboard in there to make them look suitably ironic and not proper sweaty metal. So they seem to go down well with the indie-kid audience here tonight. I liked the one’s with keyboard best, too. Someone points out they would be dreadful if they had a singer. He has a point.

The Needles (googlable names, kids – googlable names…) seem to have been about for ages. They have a reputation for their energetic live performances. And, indeed tonight they pull shapes and leap around like it’s nobody’s business. However, much as rock ‘n’ roll is all about poise and, indeed, pose it’s not really enough on it’s own. (And, to be honest, their not really that great at it.) Gone are the matching Gene Vincent leathers, in are the more ‘now’ short sleeved shirts and pencil ties. Unfortunately, a uniform does not instantly make you a unit. Akin to shouting ‘goddamn’ at every opportunity, there’s something of the dressing up box about this band. You don’t just assume the mantel of rockers and instantly become gods. (FFS I own a cowboy hat. It doesn’t make me Clint Eastwood. Unfortunately.) Of course this would all be by-the-by if there was any evidence of a tune in there tonight. It’s all surface.

Flying Matchstick Men were originally billed second bottom for tonight. However, in recognition of their current irresistible rise, they are made the headline act. (Considering, I’d planned to catch them then get an early night, this results in a shocking hangover the next day.) This is understandable, as they are in a completely different class to the company this evening.

In matching sensible jumpers, they look the part, and it works. They pull the shapes (if that’s what you could call scaling the pa towers), and they pull it off. And, they pull it off by simply being so damned exciting. A doddle.

I’m not sure what exactly the term intelligent pop means. I always get picture of clever-clever folk that people admire, but no one really likes their music. Oh, that ’twere all like this. Ass-shakingly tuneful and with something to say. Or at least arching an eyebrow and giving you the impression that it’s got something to say. Which, to be honest, is fairly smart in itself.


Written by Tony Kiernan

19 December 2005 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Gigs

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