Luxembourg, Ex-Rental, My Private Life, The Vichy Government
The marriage between band and venue is often fraught with difficulties: most bands shamelessly use venues as a crutch before abandoning them for one more attractive. In some cases, an unsuccessful fling with 2,000+ capacity halls is forgotten, the indie dive welcoming back its perfect match with open arms (see Shed Seven and The Bluetones, but only if there’s nothing else on). In the early stages of a band’s career though, when the toilet is the only one who’ll have them, we get some terrible mismatches. As people said of The Darkness, they were stadium rock awaiting a stadium. Of course, it can work the other way around . . .
The Vichy Government are a synth duo who look (possibly intentionally) like they are out of a Little Britain sketch. The sharp-tongued Northern Irish singer, with his 1980s BHS flowery blouse and tight plastic skirt, accompanied by the straight man with his toy keyboard are strongly reminiscent of Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Their socio-political rants, however, were far too samey to sustain our interest. The singer is entertaining when he speaks the lyrics, but woefully inadequate when called upon to actually sing. They weren’t helped either by being first on and having the largest zone (the semi-circle in front of the stage that sceptical audiences refuse to enter) I’ve ever seen, it was almost like the security barrier at a festival. Although, imagining the Vichy Government playing at a festival is like imagining my casio watch being used instead of Big Ben for the News at Ten bongs.
Ideal venue? A friend’s bedroom.
Ex-Rental are a synth duo of a completely different breed. Their keyboard is of a higher quality and the singer actually sings rather than speaking. Their music, however, was as unmemorable as their dull clothes. And a synth duo without an eye-catching look is a serious misdemeanour. Even their name, Ex-Rental, evokes an image of shop-solied goods and poor quality image. However, they are just at the beginning of a residency at The Fan Club and should use that time to develop.
Ideal venue? The club in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights.
My Private Life are essentially one man and an electronic piano. His female companion didn’t do enough to merit her place and wasn’t icy enough to be interesting (although she did fake orgasm reasonably well). Highly literate lyrics, namechecking Kerouac and Ravel within thirty seconds, add an appropriate mood to masterfully melodic piano riffs. The jollity of the piano could have been annoying were it not underscored by a certain ache. I’m sure that he’ll be compared to Neil Hannon soon enough, but you may as well go back to source and say Noel Coward. Whether the lyrics will prove worthy of such a comparison remains to be seen.
See what you make of the gnomic chorus to their opening number:
It’s such an insincere intention, paying you attention.
I will sit in fear, when you’re not here.
And I’ll continue walking, if you persist in talking:
I could drop dead at things you said.
One is gratified with imagined visions of this marvellously insouciant singer kicking back his stool and tipping his boating cap to one side, but no, not yet. For now they will have to put up will have to put up with these inappropriate venues, with a trash-indie crowd undeserving of their witty lyrics and decadent poses. Look out for them, hopefully in a venue with a real piano and a polite audience.
Ideal venue? The Tea Rooms of the Savoy Hotel.
Luxembourg’s loyal fans are a varied lot. Headbanging at the front during most gigs are a band of five Hobbits with identical blonde curls. A little further back are some delicate and not-so-delicate widows. The backbone of the nation, myself included, stand between them and a topless man dancing enthusiastically. Unlike other bands, assisted by press coverage and radio play, Luxembourg have earned this disparate bunch of fans the hard way. Persistent gigging is a tiring road to travel, but for the fans it is a dream come true. Every show, for those of us who attend regularly, has begun to feel like a greatest hits package.
Indeed, opening with Faint Praise followed by Success is Never Enough is akin to Tatu opening with All The Things She Said and How Soon is Now, making one think that there won’t be anything good left for later. And yet, aside from the let down of old song, In My Bed (which should never have been played last), the sheer amount of quality songs they have to draw on sustains them admirably.
New song, Close Cropped, is a catchy, toe-tapping pop song which, with its coy lyrics listing a potential lover’s finer attributes, brings a smile to almost every face in the house. David Shah’s lyrics are developing, becoming ever more distinctive, achieving that near-impossible trick of uniting the specific with the universal:
I want your peachy skin and I want it now,
I want your well-groomed nails and your tended brow,
I want your supple arms draped across my frame,
I want the things you’ve done, I think you feel the same,
I’ll let your three-day stubble tear across my cheek,
I want to hold your hand until sometime next week.
His baritone, which could potentially bulldoze a song with such subtle lyrics, is becoming more and more able to locate the necessary emphasis that turns interesting lyrics into killer lines.
Ideal venue? Brixton Academy.