Gary Le Strange
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that a joke is an epigram on the death of a feeling. In the case of Gary Le Strange – Byronic Lord of Pop, fictional creation of the comedian Waen Shepherd, and the funniest musical parody since Spinal Tap – we are, ostensibly, mourning New Romanticism and, by extension, the 80s. The fact that the joke is still funny, considering that New Romanticism has been dead for years should not surprise us because, after a difficult time of it, the 80s are everywhere. It isn’t so much that the 80s are suddenly fashionable or that people are buying up the back catalogues of 80s artists, rather that the distance in terms of years is great enough for everything and anything to be legitimate.
Take Sub-Culture. Although they don’t look very 80s with their nouveau trash glam, they certainly sound it. They lead one to imagine an electro-Chameleons or a goth-New Order. With anguished vocals, shouted down the microphone by a singer in a baggy red pvc suit, they demand attention. Unfortunately, it is the kind of attention we reluctantly give to the aggressive. The effect aimed at is situationist shock, but with their dull and dated beats they leave us unmoved. If they can update their drum patterns and channel the energy of their singer, they could be good. This is only their second gig, after all.
Unlike second band, Trademark, who have been playing for years, honing their performance so that it is very smooth indeed. Unfortunately, their labcoat-electro has had all of its interesting parts smoothed over as well. Now, although labcoats may be irredeemably passe, at least they show willing, but wearing them with trainers is absolutely indefensible. The incongruity between the singer’s floppy hair and his mildly diverting keyboard riffs was too much. The lyrics were sang without even a hint of a robotic voice! In the 80s a persona was something to be blandished like a weapon, nowadays it seems to be an excuse to be slightly less bland for thirty minutes. An accusation which can’t be levelled at Gary Le Strange.
Tonight, for the first time, Gary played outside of the world of comedy. Could he bridge the gap between musical stand-up and standing up in a music venue? What would the audience think about the crossover? The fact that they adored him says a great deal, not only about his definite talent, but about the context he was playing in. For the first time in several years (possibly), people actually heard lyrics articulated. His character, despite being fictional, did not come equipped with an insincere grin. Moreover, he did more than just mumble “thank you” after each song. Like these brilliant and telling lines:
“I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I do think that I was definitely a Samurai in a past life. Yeah, my manager says that I should maybe see a doctor about that. But I always find that the best way to deal with painful repressed memories is to turn them into a three minute thirty pop record.”
His singing voice is a subtle blend of Gary Numan, Phil Oakey, Martin Fry and other New Romantic gurners. Whilst the music is full of slapped bass, spot-on beats and muscular keyboard melodies. Final track, Is My Toaster Sentient?, sets the tenor for our thoughts about Gary as he leaves the stage to rapturous applause. This song, which, like much great comedy, touches on life’s purposes, unites music and comedy to the point where it stops mattering whether he is one or the other:
Is my toaster sentient? Is my blender mad? Is my telephone autistic?
Is my car a genius? Is my bin a twat? Is my oven a pillock?
Indeed, there is such a rich seam of comedy in New Romanticism and Gary Le Strange as a character, that he should start writing the script for the documentary (or fopumentary?) right now.
Last month, I recommended that Ex-Rental use their residency at the Fan Club to improve; and, it is true, their music was more dynamic tonight. But they suffered miserably for being on after Gary Le Strange. Unclear vocals which, when heard, delivered vapid lyrics did little to endear them to the crowd. Like the worst – and least humourous – aspects of the 80s, Ex-Rental have plenty of surface buzz but absolutely no depth.