Tuesday night at the Bull and Gate, what a rich image those words evoke: near empty room, passionless applause, plastic glasses, mediocre music. Looking through the Bull and Gate listings I come to the conclusion that bands are booked solely on the awfulness of their name – The Noyze, Ruocco, Velvet Quicksand, Angel Racing Food, Myopia and, tonight, Richard the Fourth Presents. Awful.
Second band up, Burning Pilot, were intriguing at first, playing a new wave version of Hot Butter’s Popcorn. If Neil Scout were there he would undoubtedly say that they have the potential to fill the void left by Romeo Trading Co., what with their Ron Mael-ish synth player and skinny-tied bassist. Running through their Fall-meets-Gang of Four songs, they fit the current nouveau post-punk scene well. However, with so many bands attempting to occupy the same desiccated piece of turf, you need to have something special to rise above the rest and, whatever it is, Burning Pilot don’t have it.
Now, the first thing to say about Villette is that their name rhymes with Gillette and Lil-let. I mentioned that they were playing to two separate friends and they both immediately pounced on this fact. That they didn’t say: ‘ah, the Charlotte Bronte romance’ says a lot about the world Villette nervously find themselves in. It is a world of advertising and vulgarity, two things that their intensely intense lyrics exist to oppose. Take Memorial, which takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60:
a lover imprisoned by her woes
the rising tide has swept aside her prose
ever haunted by a youth misplaced
and phantom alms of lost embraces
(where the sky wont stop her shaking)
Their singer, Paul Robertson, had said to me that I ‘probably wouldn’t like them’ and that they ‘weren’t very good,’ and he was right. But they have – dread word – potential. Not least in the fact that Paul, even when crippled with nerves, has a voice that remains in tune and charismatic. He also prevents them from being too faithful to their obvious lineage of the Manics, Suede, Strangelove and, curiously, REM.
The latter seems to have inspired their guitarist, Paul’s younger brother, Neil, to play jangling power chords. These are much too simple to sustain interest, especially when combined with a bassist who can’t play bass and a drummer called Monsoon. Monsoon appears to have been given carte blanche to improvise as many fills and rolls as he likes, ruining the rhythm of the songs via his excesses.
Villette need a leader – someone to tell the drummer to stop buggering around, someone to get the band motivated and playing together. Villette need to work a little harder on their songs so that they don’t descend – through laziness – into heavy metal. Why? Because Tuesday night in the Bull and Gate is a horrible place to be.