Luxembourg, Flipron, Boy Genius and William Hut
William Hut is an earnest Norwegian with a drab sincerity akin to that of David Gray. He plays songs that yearn for the sake of yearning, without ever locating the object they are yearning for. The effect he seems to hanker after is that of wistful resignation; the effect achieved is of monotonous boredom. A change in dynamic might have given him a discernible presence, anything to break-up the dirge.
Next up, Boy Genius, are instantly recognisable as the kind of indie band one finds in provincial towns all over Britain. I was unaware that London tolerated such incursions of solid mediocrity, but I suppose when you’ve got sharp suits, a Stipean singer and fairly proficient musicians, the gigs will keep coming. They play the kind of bland indie that never changes or disappears, waiting in the wings for renewed interest. They are remarkable for only one thing: being archetypally indie. That is, they are classifiable to the extent that the label obscures anything the band might have had to offer.
Unlike Flipron, who are as unique as their name and impossible to pigeonhole generically. At one point singer, Jesse Budd announces that they are about to play a Hawaiian Ska number, a stylistic influence that comes from their keyboardist Joe Atkinson’s moonlighting with Neville Staple’s (The Specials) band. Like the Specials, they are eclectic and tuneful, but unlike The Specials, there are no hard, punky edges. Flipron play easy listening in true sense of music that is melodic and pleasing. To risk a comparison, I would say that they are like The James Taylor Quartet without any of the wanky funky bits. Lyrically, Jesse follows his flights of fancy wherever they take him, frequently arriving at superb fables like that of Youth Shall Never Beat Old Age in a Race, a song about nothing less than mortality and the meaning of life:
Yes, even Youth is tiring from the distance of the race
& grabs Old Age’s Zimmer-frame to help keep up the pace.
How triumphantly Youth shuffles past the corpse upon the track
& confidently makes the grave mistake of looking back
& sees behind, in horror, another racer for the truth,
yeah, coming up behind here comes the newer younger Youth.
Flipron have an album out in March. Look out for it.
I first saw Luxembourg at the Arts Cafe nine months ago. Whatever was conceived on that night has since given birth to numerous articles, praising their undeniable talents whilst also pointing out where I think they are going wrong. This is not everyday criticism, but I do try to be objective.
For instance, I note that Luxembourg failed to adapt to the lounge-like environs of the Arts Cafe, playing as though it were just another toilet venue. I noticed because the songs that stood out were their quieter numbers: an unbearably poignant Raised and the latest addition to their canon, Stream.
The latter sounds promising: it is elegant with its picked guitar and simple, effective piano. And yet it was mangled somewhat by the presentation. In such a small venue, to such an intimate audience it didn’t need crashing drums with distracting fills and rolls. It also suffered from inaudible lyrics as singer David Shah’s falsetto clouded the meaning of a song about a nuclear family. We have long known his voice to be like a duel between Scott Walker and Jimmy Somerville. On new song, Scott begins but Jimmy takes over. Impressive in small doses, falsettos should be used sparingly. The Smiths’ Miserable Lie being a fine example of it being used well.
Like The Smiths, Luxembourg are very focused, having created a formidable body of work in a short period of time, and this is an admirable thing, but they also need to be adaptable. If they can do that then 2004 will theirs for the taking.