Concealed down an alleyway facing the Astoria, the Studio Club is reminiscent of the kind of sleazy, sweaty joints where Otis Redding or Ben E. King might have played in their tours of swinging London. Indeed, on entering, I felt myself being transported back to the Sixties, an insider to a secret cabal devoted to orgies and narcotics. Needless to say, this feeling was instantly quelled by the 22nd Century drinks prices and the opening band, Mohair.
They are the type of band that the uninformed call retro, grouping them with Ocean Colour Scene, Toploader, and other mediocrities. This is slightly disingenuous, because whereas those bands play as if they stopped buying records in 1976, Mohair play as if year-zero were 1995. Like Supergrass and, if you can bear to remember them, The Dharmas they have guitar, hammond, bass and drums; but the rhythm and soundscape is totally Britpop. Sixties and Seventies bands had space between the instruments, whereas nowadays the wall of sound is more like a breezeblock dropped from a great height.
The opening song, which sounded suspiciously like Supergrass’s ‘Richard III’ with added na-na-nas, is note perfect and a rousing entree. All four of them can sing in harmony, although frontman, Tom Billington’s slightly weedy, Brian Molko-ish voice failed to impact over the top. In keeping with the Sixties theme, it was like a bad acid flashback as I recalled who they reminded me of: Ether, a long forgotten chirpy Parlophone band with songs about bathrooms.
Mohair’s lyrics are not as shallow as that but, in keeping with the Britpop ethos, whatever is not negligibly particular is blandly universal. Songs about the sky/sun/flying/etc., splitting up with girlfriends, and other such unoriginal miscellanea, fail to evoke any feeling beyond a dull yearning to listen to a real lyricist. People nowadays complain about the backward looking youth of today, imitating their predecessors and failing to make use of drum machines and samplers, but no art ever really progresses so as to invalidate what came before. All we as listeners should ask for is the same we have always asked for: wit, talent, feeling, originality. Mohair have an undeniable energy, if only it could be better channelled.