Imagine a pot-bellied giant drunkenly staggering through Soho. Watch out as he falls face down in the road – probably tripped up by a line of rickshaws – knocking himself unconscious. Now imagine going down some stairs into his distended stomach. The walls are blood-red and glistening. The smell of bad digestion fills the foetid air. The rumbling sound of hunger (that is, the drums being soundchecked) can be heard. Slowly, after an argument with the barmaid you realise that you are actually in Gossips, London’s grottiest venue, to see HOST.
I wonder if the owners of the club actually like their venue, especially the enormous plastic spider climbing across its web of fairy lights. Perhaps they purposefully make it look bad so as to look more authentic. Later on, in a more congenial pub, we discussed The Libertines’ Pete Doherty. Apparently, he is an upper middle-class kid gone off the rails, rather than an authentic street poet a la Dizzee Rascal. Yet one has to admit that Doherty looks suitably “real” whatever his upbringing.
Pop history shows that if you are middle-class you virtually have a duty to do something about your look, simply because there is no authenticity in being bourgeois, whereas there is in the aesthetics of glam, charity-shop smart and punk. HOST’s problem is that they look too middle-class with their T-shirts tucked into their ironed jeans, smart hair cuts (for the day job) and their new ‘skater’ trainers. This makes it difficult to take them seriously as a force in the current post-punk scene where authenticity is everything.
None of which would matter if they weren’t very good, but they are. Penultimate song, Young and Bullet-Proof, is brilliantly catchy, full of intuitive hooks and harmonies. Each angular verse and joyful chorus is tight, every rhythm forces your toes to tap along. The only thing missing is an image.