David Devant & His Spirit Wife – The Lexington (11 April 2014)

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Before Shaun of the Dead.  Before even Spaced. Edgar Wright directed a sitcom written and staring Simon Pegg (and the fragrant Jessica Stevenson) called Asylum.  (All references tell me it was on cable/satellite.  But, it must’ve hit terrestrial telly too.  I didn’t have access to anything wider at the time.) It was a strange mix-up of sitcom and variety show.  Using the premise of “who’s in this cell?” to showcase many up-and-coming comedians.  AND, the (nut)house band David Devant & His Spirit Wife.

I used to wonder whose mates the band were.  Basically, there was a bloke in a bouffant wig and drawn on pencil moustache in silly clothes.  You got the impression the went down a treat a some North London comedy club, you’d never get into for the names being seen there, the would go down a treat (see the current Britpop celebrations – it had gradations).  The music was a pale, mannered, underwhelming, version of that lounge-singer indie stuff that was prevalent at the time.  It was the bits of the show I really couldn’t be bothered with.  Like the musical interludes in the Goons.

A few years back, following having finally watched Spaced (and, probably, post-Hot Fuzz), I sought out this series I had such fond memories of. (Have a vague recollection of 6 Pairs of Pants. Which I remember being on Channel 5 at it’s start, but wasn’t. That’s impossible to find, though.) To be kind, let’s say, it didn’t really stand the test of time.  There were some chuckles, mostly it was quite painful.  But, what struck me most (other than Julian Barratt being in it) was just how fricking good the music in it was*.  In the first episode the played Miscellaneous (their signature piece), the scales fell from my eyes, and there followed a mad scrabbling to acquire their catalogue.  (Not so easy then.  A little more readily available now.)

I remember noting that the band reform around 2010.  Thought it was for some sort of one-off anniversary shindig.  Seems not, as we find ourselves jammed into the venue (if the Prims gigs were sold out, someone needs to phone a fire officer on this), waiting for the wig to take to the stage. The open with the obvious, and it’s a stunning example of just how brilliantly deceptively simple the band are.  It’s a song that just keeps building, taking turns you don’t expect, but never at the expense of the melody.  The songs are key to it all.  Each an effortless toe-tapper.  Some of these, their more lauded peers would’ve killed for.  Could it be the case that if no-one takes you seriously, it is easier to be quietly brilliant, unscrutinised?

The band are tighter than a great analogy.  Playful, and enraging.  There’s none of the sound issues, I’m getting close to regarding as synonymous with the venue.  By the end all of London is singing about being ginger and free.  Or, at least, it feels that way.

They encore with the bontempi-singlong joy of I’m Not even Going To Try that takes the band out into the audience and involves a strange Pied Piper/conga thing.  It kinda highlights what works so well with this band.  Despite the surface/artifice, there;s a warmth at the heart of their music, and for their audience.

BTW, I also love that Max Geldray stuff these days.

*I need to point that throughout the period of denial, several of my friends (whose opinions I value) loved this band.  And, tried to show why to this pig-headed fool.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work.  What really scares me is the ones that you always have a blind-spot for, that you never reappraise.  More lost opportunities.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

12 April 2014 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Gigs, London, Music

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