Luxembourg and Grand Drive
The difference between a band that are going to make it and a band that isn’t can be summed up in one word: velocity. All bands have their moment of glory – a Peel session, a great festival appearance, some press hyperbole – what distinguishes the truly successful band is that all of these things occur at the same time with increased velocity. Of course, record labels can artificially manufacture velocity by cranking up the machinery of music press, radio, and TV – it isn’t called the music industry for nothing – but once a band has started picking up speed, once their momentum gets to a certain level, once they have got up the steepest part of the mountain, the velocity of success virtually takes care of itself.
Tonight’s support, Grand Volume, look very successful with their brand new amps and clinical tightness. The poses their pretty-boy singer pulls off seem calculated to recall every sincere singer since Grunge began. The music continues the trend of borrowing post-rock stylings and injecting them into the mainstream. Explosions in the Sky with vocals? The Cooper Temple Clause with more edge? These descriptions are inadequate simply because Grand Volume aren’t that good. For all their apparent perfectionism – or perhaps because of it – the songs aren’t catchy or passionate. One song repeats the chorus line: “We are shit, we are shit.” To which one can only reply: I wouldn’t go that far, but you’re not far off.
Grand Volume reminded me of a line in Brian Eno’s Appendicitis diary about Japanese culture. Namely, their method of preparing things slowly and beautifully before a quick burst of action ( . . . after spending all day with ink, nibs and paper, the calligrapher spends only a little time actually writing). And in this sense, they are the polar opposite of the headliners, luxembourg.
After around two years of learning their trade – building up a formidable body of songs in the process – luxembourg are finally picking up velocity. Steve Lamacq is playing them, a proper single is imminent (6th September) and many gigabytes of laudatory press (derived mainly from their appearance on the Angular Records compilation) has come their way in the last month or so. In the past, they have been more-or-less-unfairly demonised as Britpop revivalists. However, with their new songs – particularly Pin Me Down and Mishandled – they have discovered a sound that is all their own. It is confident, direct and very, very catchy with lyrics that are even more focused, describing common but undocumented emotions with panache.
What the Housewives Don’t Tell You is the ideal choice of single, being the most representative of their current confidence. It sounds like the Smiths covering Franz Ferdinand’s Michael or Animal Nitrate-era Suede covering Bengali in Platforms. And the lyrics, describing a daytime-TV watching gay man’s relationship with an in-denial fauxmosexual, are excellent:
now you’re sending me messages
that I can’t quite read
you write, “hope you’re well”
when you mean, “come and see me”
you write, “how are you?”
when you mean, “how I want you”
and your “see you soon”
means, “put those arms around me”
so why did you ask me out
when you knew you could not deliver?
What the housewives don’t tell you is that in order to keep your man you can’t actually have him: “I don’t care if you / never make a move / just as long as you / don’t say it’s time to leave / stay around a while / I can make more tea / you can put on a record / just don’t say you’re going / cos what the housewives don’t tell you / because they don’t want to distress you / is it’s a lonely, lonely vigil that we’re keeping / and it’s all for you.”
These lines have an unbearable lightness rarely seen in pop music. It would be criminal if they don’t reach a larger audience.