Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Murphy's Law

Pure Reason Revolution, Fans Of Kate- The Barfly, Chalk Farm 18/4/05

Bloody typical. The one time I actually arrive early for a pre-arranged meeting, there is all manner of chaos at Chalk Farm, involving what purported to be a defective train, but what may well actually have been a passenger on the track (especially likely given the strong police and emergency service presence outside the station). I got a justified taste of my own medicine in having to wait half an hour for John Kell to arrive (through no fault of his own). Ho Hum - given the irony, I guess it was appropriate that we ended up drinking Murphy's rather than Guinness inside the venue.

This proved to be a rather more nostalgic evening than I had expected. John Kell had played me a Pure Reason Revolution track whilst I was sitting in on the alumni edition of John Kell Vs. Satan, and from him I knew they had a track on the latest compilation in the Abuse Your Friends series (my old band Hyperfuzz were featured on number one). I also subsequently found out that my friend Seb (lead guitarist in aforementioned teen punk combo) had been asked to join the band on guitar. Had he actually told me that the band featured two former members of fellow teen pop-punkers Gel (who we supported on a number of occasions) and one member of girl punk group the Period Pains, the event would have seemed less like a series of odd coincidences, and more like an intricately connected, somewhat incestuous web. At last it all made sense! What's more bizarre is that I completely failed to recognise either Jon or Andrew from Gel, as they both looked radically different (bulkier and more hairy to put it politely). With two members of Gel, one member of Period Pains, all of Hyperfuzz, and apparently also the once omnipresent Emmy-Kate Montrose of Kenickie, it felt like a big old Friday Dynamite reunion. Anyway, more of PRR later....

First, the support acts. The opening act were called something like Make Your Good Escape, and they played highly proficient rock music that would not have been out of place in the pages of Kerrang! magazine. Not really my cup of tea, but they had a lot of energy, and they seemed more distinctive than the average heavy rock band largely due to some vigorous and technically impressive drumming.

Next up were the much touted Fans Of Kate, who have already received a couple of plays on the new Steve Lamacq afternoon show on BBC 6Music. It would be churlish not to admit that I quite enjoyed their set, bristling as it was with self-effacing charm, zest and a clutch of memorable tunes. Nevertheless, the somewhat conventional and chugging arrangements began to irritate by about half way through the set, and by the end I felt rather like I'd been pushed repeatedly against a brick wall. This was not in itself an entirely un-entertaining experience, but they were perhaps in danger of pummeling some very good pop songs into submitting to a somewhat predictable and generic format. Certainly, the set was perilously close to being samey.

Pure Reason Revolution took the longest setting up, and not without reason. With their banks of synths and keyboards, laptops, electronic drums and guitars they were certainly making use of that new advance from Sony (who are apparently hoping they will break America). How the two brothers from Gel went from 'Picture Frame' and 'Rosie and Jim' to this I'm not entirely sure. They played a near-continuous set of hypnotic, proggy grooves which were punctuated by harmonies straight out of the Crosby, Stills and Nash songbook, and fervent passages of cock-rock action. This made for an unconventional and striking combination. Some people I spoke to remained unconvinved by this staunchly unfashionable sound. I admit that the first reference point that sprang to my mind was Mansun (a band now at least partially unfairly ridiculed) but I wonder if PRR might have more commercial potential than they realise. OK, so 12 minute single 'Bright Ambassadors Of Morning' is hardly likely to be the most played track on your local GWR station - but they seem to have already amassed considerable interest, as well as something approaching a cult following. They are certainly techincally proficient and fearlessly indulgent, but the gift for a good pop melody that Jon displayed with the perpetually effervescent Gel clearly has not deserted him. They also had a remarkably polished sound, that made me temporarily forget I was in the claustrophobic confines of the Barfly (I could easily have been in an enormodome, watching this band open for the likes of Rammstein or Metallica!). The voices meshed together with consummate ease, and the band proved considerably more interesting when utilising the unusual juxtaposition of harmonies and heavy rock than when relying on meandering instrumental passages. I was slightly frustrated by the relentlessness of it all, particularly the insistence on playing a virtually continuous set with scant acknowledgement of the presence of an audience. This could only have added to the slightly unfair preconceptions of this band as pretentious, elitist, arty or other such stereotypes.

At the end, I left Seb vascilating over whether to accept the offer to join the band (it might well entail enduring a gruelling touring schedule as the band focus their efforts on the States). I must admit that I long for the opportunity for one of my musical outfits to be heard by a wider audience. But hey, like the Murphy's, I'm not bitter....

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