Redtrack, We Buy Gold, Clinker and the Maheno Wreck @ 333 Mother, London 26 August 2009 PDF Print E-mail
Gigs - 2009 Gigs
Written by Matt Killeen   

Redtrack, We Buy Gold, Clinker and the Maheno Wreck @ 333 Mother, London 26 August 2009 

By Matt Killeen

The Next Big Thing.  I’m back in the reviewing game again and therefore I’m back under the cosh, the tyranny of The Next Big Thing.  What is it?  Where will it appear?  Can we find it before it chews up and spits out the next set of unfortunates?  Tonight’s candidates, or rather the latest victims, are Redtrack.

There’s reason for optimism.  A kind of mix of The Skids and Squeeze, their first few releases have featured a few interesting bits and pieces before they slide into tired Arctic Monkey-isms.  They clearly understand the need for the pop, however they seem to suffer from "Scouting for Girls" syndrome – that is having one or two memorable hooks and then not just flogging them to death but dragging their remains round the town behind wild horses, repeat ad lib ‘til fade.  With a key change.

So, will they transcend their youthful transgression and prove to be an irresistible live act?  Such is the hope, the prayer of the reviewer if you like, as I trudge through the Shoreditch rain looking for the type of venue that doesn’t obviously have an entrance.

333 Mother is classic Shoreditch.  It talks a great game, has a very slick website but is thoroughly grubby and underwhelming in reality.  It has a full bank of CCTV cameras but no lights; the bands are lit by a desk lamp with a red bulb.  It’s amazing how little gigs have changed in the last three decades.  There’s the dad carrying an amp.  There are the girlfriends looking proud and a little embarrassed at the same time.  There are BOSS pedals and the pub décor that makes it look like the band are playing in someone’s living room.  What has definitely not changed is London’s loathsome tendency for bands and their audience to disappear when the rest of the bill is onstage.  If everyone had stayed for the whole gig this would have been a blinding night but as it was even the headliners played to half empty room.  When will everyone learn?  I nearly cut the opening band’s review entirely when I saw the band sloping off after their set until I spotted their bass player at the back, defiantly being a good supportive musician throughout.

It’s too early to judge The Maheno Wreck though.  They’re in that embryonic state where each song requires a mini conference and frantic tuning. They play that sub-Editors / Coldplay thing that everyone wants to emulate and it sounds nice enough.  The sound was pretty bad and I couldn’t really hear the vocals too clearly so I won’t draw too many conclusions.  I suspect, although I’m not sure, that the singer lacks the requisite je-ne-sais-quoi to be a frontman.  They also need to learn that if you have to play the first song again as an encore, you shouldn’t be doing one.  Be mean and keep the audience keen.

Then Clinker came on and showed everybody that dodgy sound and poor staging are no barrier to brilliance, or rather the appearance of brilliance.  You either have it or you don’t.   A bizarre electronic, sax, keys and double guitar combo, one-part hippy harmonies, three parts Pixies psychedelia and a touch of funk, they bounced enthusiastically through their set like they were doing something genuinely exciting.  Their lead guitarist, Tomoko Matsumoto, is a tiny, unassuming-looking woman who suddenly exploded into a demon, becoming a force of nature with an obnoxious, occasionally painful sound and the will to make it regardless of traditional skills or whether this was Wembley or some toilet in North London.  She oozed charisma.  The whole thing was utterly compelling.  Then they watched everyone else play.  Heaven knows if there’s an audience for this out there but they reminded me why I do this:  it’s the hope of seeing something new and genuinely exciting, to witness something unstoppable.  It’s what gets us out of the house, what makes us sit through the hype and the drivel in pubs that look like a granny’s back room.

We Buy Gold have a great band name, a real piece of the zeitgeist for the future to ponder on... or perhaps not.  As things stand, history will not remember them.  Lead, or rather dragged by a highly charismatic bassist in the Peter Hook mould, We Buy Gold slouched through some extended instrumentals that tottered between the avant-garde and the under-rehearsed with little care.  The trumpeter looked like she was deeply worried or confused as to what was going on for most of the time, not unreasonable considering that was how the audience felt, but it’s possible she just had one of those faces.  At best they achieved a melancholy beauty reminiscent of the best of Super Furry Animals.  At worst, it was a disastrous mess, the egotistical vanity project of someone who should know better.  In the end they need a singer and an editor, someone to turn three ten minute pieces into songs and someone else to put their foot down and say "no".

Which left Redtrack, a band on another plane of existence.  They are superbly slick, utterly professional and better live than they are on record.  Their audience, slim as it is tonight, are into it and look the part.  There’s bags of potential.  However, is it enough?  I don’t hear that one standout song, that driver to the download site.  I’m also not sure what they stand for or what we’re buying into, beyond tight jeans and androgynous t-shirts.  They aspire to great heights and competition at the peak is fierce.  The Next Big Thing lives there and it’s appetite for young talent is insatiable.  If I was in charge of these guys I’d make them write more and build on what they have.  In fact, I’d make them start again, maximise their obvious talent until they are impossible to withstand, but of course these days no-one gets that kind of time.

Maybe my expectations forged in the kiln of the last century are outdated.  In the age of the internet, the unheard of millionaire musicians and itunes, it’s possible bands no longer need that killer tune to carry them to the spotlight.  The likes of Trent Reznor are advising musicians to forget about being signed and, theoretically at least, your online friends should carry you.  Maybe a few decentish tracks are enough.

Still, I’m not sure.  Maybe time will tell or maybe I’ll forget to check on them – you see my problem?

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