For this night, back to the Buffalo Bar for Guided Missile's latest presentation, with some familiar music and one band new to me, and offering proof once again that the North London live music scene could be seen as in rude health.
Keith Top Of The Pops & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band
Buffalo Bar, London N1
The first evidence of this was shown by opening band Her Parents, who blitzed through a set of punk-rock songs that were genuinely entertaining and fascinating to watch. Members of other bands feature in their lineup (including someone from the marvellously-named Dananananaykroyd), and despite sounding at points like they are playing while falling down the stairs, it quickly became apparent that they are a whole lot more talented than they perhaps let on. Instruments are swapped, all four of them (including the drummer) take lead vocals at various points, and they also seemed to be picking the setlist on the hoof. Either way, it was great fun, very loud and I'll be looking out for them live again in the future.
I've seen Desperate Journalist before, of course (supporting Six By Seven earlier in the summer), and I was captivated by them back then. For some reason here they didn't quite click for me, and I suspect more than anything it was a mixture of the heat in the venue and a sound that didn't seem quite right. They are still an interesting band, that push many of my buttons in their sound, but I'll be looking out for them in a different venue to this next time.
Last One Dies
Humming Song (Intentions)
Serves Me Right
I've covered Blindness a good many times here – either in single reviews, live reviews and even an interview earlier this year – and seen them live a few more times than that, and maintain that they are one of the strongest live bands on the "circuit", if you will, in London. Thanks to scheduling conflicts I've missed a few of their shows during 2013, and this was the first time I've seen them since some time in the early Spring. This turned out to be a good time to catch them, though, with the announcement this past week that bassist Kendra Frost was leaving the band after this show.
This has been something of a year of good and bad for the band. They've had a well-received single (Last One Dies) out as a vinyl and download release, and as a split 7" with US kindred spirits A*Star, and a number of higher profile support slots that judging on the number of "likes" on their Facebook page, if nothing else has increased their reach. But then, they first lost drummer Alex earlier in the year, resulting in a return to being a three-piece with a drum machine, and now Kendra is going. I've no doubt that they will bounce back from this – there is another release on the way sometime, I understand – but it is at least a bump in the road.
As for the gig itself, Blindness were on fighting form, even if in certain corners of the venue the sound seemed a bit strange (the perils of a small, basement venue with pillars, I guess). Blasting through a seven-song, half-hour set that took in both their singles, their heavier moments and their more introspective tracks, it pretty much offered all of the aspects of the band that I've grown to love.
So there were the pounding, driving singles – Glamourama back to being the opener, Last One Dies being as caustic and as punishing as ever. Broken was a seething mass of tension and eventual release (I swear that the explosion of Debbie's guitar work in the song gets louder and harsher every time), while Sunday Morning for me is becoming one of their finest songs – a languid tale of morning-after blues that has an electronic, melodic heart quite unlike any of their other songs.
There was even time for a moment of tribute to their departing bassist, before rushing headlong into the final couple of songs. Blindness continue their steady progress in refining their sound, and as they do it will be interesting to see what they do next – more releases are on the cards, of course, but a replacement bassist as good a fit as Kendra was will perhaps be tough to find.
So, onto the headliners. It's been a while since I last saw Keith Top Of The Pops & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band live, and as usual, the lineup is different to whatever has gone before – this time I counted fourteen or so people onstage, countless guitars and various other instruments, and a feeling of the band teetering on the edge of chaos but somehow holding it together. Some thoughts and observations that I took away from the show:
- Keith TOTP is probably the biggest narcissist in indie-rock, but it's all tongue-in-cheek and frequently very funny indeed. You could perhaps take it as a send-up of all those indie bands that truly think they are the greatest thing ever, but really aren't.
- He couldn't give a shit if you wear a band's T-shirt to their gig, including his own.
- He's ambivalent about The Beatles.
- Morrissey fans hate him.
- He hates your band (particularly Bastille, I was overjoyed to find out).
- His band is better than yours
Obviously, an artist with this kind of sense of humour, you are going to love or hate. Personally I find his music good fun, and certainly enjoyable in a live environment. Not everything has to be serious…