Luxembourg,The Pictures and Beauty School Dropouts
It’s easy to get jaded when making any extended survey of the London gig scene. One finds oneself saying things like “well, at least they’re professional” with unwarranted approval. Inaudible vocals are accepted as standard. One sees decadent glamour withering into decayed garishness; yesterday’s vital young things become tomorrow’s faded failures. And yet. And yet, nothing can quite beat discovering a band on their ascent, before they are blighted by either expensive and crowded success or potential unfulfilled.
I was musing thus whilst watching The Pictures, whose bassist is Emmy-Kate Montrose, formerly of Kenickie. It was hard not to discern a certain bitterness, a listless quality altogether absent when she was an 18-year-old happily sacrificing university for the Further Education of Rock n Roll. The band is a three-piece – samples/guitar, bass and keyboard – all very now, and they plod along quite amiably, but they’re not catchy enough, not charismatic enough. Professional, though.
Not nearly as professional as The Beauty School Dropouts, though, whose singer I glanced at when watching The Pictures, saying to my friends: either she is in the band or she is blind, so awful did her clothes look when not domesticated by the stage. She wore vertically striped black and white leggings with a khaki jacket and army cap. Her fringe covered one eye. Nevertheless, when presented by the not-particularly glamorous pillar of the Verge she became a cross between Nico and a lap dancer: simultaneously cold and hot, writhing all over it, but retaining an icy stare. If only the tunes had been better.
All of these bands are on their ascent: the first have links to labels via their bassist; the second are streamlined and professional, seemingly awaiting the dotted line for their moist pen; but neither of them reach the heights. Luxembourg, on the other hand, are a fingernail away from touching the stars. When it occurs to you to think of them as professional – as you are apt to do after a particularly exquisite change of dynamic – you are reminded that there is a certain point when all questions of professionalism become meaningless. Except, of course, when it comes to releasing records and earning money . . .
“We are Luxembourg! London’s [inaudible] unsigned band.” This was the cry of David Shah, Luxembourg’s singer, prior to their rendition of Making Progress, the A-side of their debut self-released single. The inaudible word could have been any number of superlatives: greatest, biggest, wittiest, coolest, catchiest. As to whether they would make the same impact if they were signed (which tends to turn school heroes into just another band) well, despite being slightly out of sync with the zeitgeist (although, of course, Morrissey is back on the scene) they are brimming with elegant melodies which positively ache for potential listeners.
So: where do Luxembourg come from?
I first heard of them because they were supposed be supporting the former-Strangelove front man Patrick Duff; and someone mentioned Tindersticks as soundalikes. Duff, it turned out, knew nothing about the gig and whoever said they were like Tindersticks needs hearing aids. One finds oneself conjuring with names like The Smiths, Duran Duran, and, especially, ABC. This last comparison is mainly due to Shah’s sonorous voice, his wasp-waisted, white-jacketed cool, and his look of love. The rest of the band are suitably energetic, providing an effective backing, somewhat akin to the modern rock sound of Suede.
However, any suggestion that Luxembourg are derivative should be silenced immediately. They have taken a neglected suit from the wardrobe of pop history, dusted it down, and sewn on a few sequins. They look fabulous in it.