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A Band Called QuinnFreyia
Huski
Kristal And Jonny Boy
A Band Called Quinn

Dublin Castle, London
Wednesday October 6 2010

 

Now, bear with me on this for a moment, but my first thought upon encountering A Band Called Quinn is to wonder why they're not simply called Quinn.

The Ford Motor Company doesn't market its vehicles as 'A Car Called Ford Focus'. The venue we're in tonight does not style itself  'A Pub Called The Dublin Castle'. And anyway, why is it A Band Called Quinn? How many bands called Quinn are there? Shouldn't they have the courage of the definite article, and call themselves The Band Called Quinn?

Fortunately, the band start playing before I manage to work myself up into an internal frenzy over semantics. A Band Called Quinn come from East Kilbride, where The Jesus And Mary Chain originated (perhaps there's something in the water there that induces bands to give themselves long and slightly gnomic names) but they're on a very different musical tangent. They look like they've stepped out of a cabaret show, the boys in the band all neatly suited, the female singer wearing a dress from the New York 80s Glam collection - and they play a kind of West Side Story version of new wave pop. Everything is very wordy and dramatic, the band going for it as if they've meticulously workshopped the entire performance.

In a way I'd like to see the singer fronting a band of more authentically downbeat new wavey types in black T-shirts, rather than her frantically mugging musical troupe, each one of them vying for the limelight. It's not that I dislike A Band Called Quinn, but I'm not too sure whether I'm watching a band or a theatrical production. Strip it all down, is what I say. Starting with the name.

A complete contrast now. Kristal And Johnny Boy are exactly what their name suggests: a duo. An acoustic-electronic duo, to be exact, in which an electro-beat rattles in the background while Johnny Boy - on guitar and moustache - strums with a studied nonchalance, like a waiter serenading diners while trying not to seem too keen for tips. Kristal, meanwhile, sings and dances a strange, slo-mo, one woman flamenco, as if every song has a story behind it that can only be told in three dimensions.

Their performance is odd and humourous and weirdly compelling all at the same time, and certainly overturns any preconceptions about what an acoustic duo should be all about. If this is folk music - and occasionally, the songs touch base with the conventions of folk, but only occasionally - then it must've come through the back of a wardrobe from some other dimension.

Huski / Kristal And Jonny Boy

It's been quite a while since I last saw Huski, although that doesn't necessarily mean I've missed much. Huski seem to exist sporadically, in the gaps between whatever frontwoman Maple Bee is doing elsewhere - her solo project, moonlighting for the Medieval Baebes, saving the world from destruction at the hands of supervillains, etc.

Actually, I made the bit about supervillains up, but clearly something must be going on behind the scenes to prevert Huski surging forward. The band has been around for five years or so now, and it's a downright tragedy they haven't yet become the pop stars they deserve to be. Because Huski are darkly glamourous in just the right way - and, if tonight's show is any guide, they've now embraced The Rock. Maple Bee totes a Rickenbacker bass guitar like she was born to be a rock chick, and the band kicks up a max-heaviosity racket. But it says much for Huski's songwriting that their songs don't buckle under the weight of the big bad riffs. That darkly glamourous pop is still present and correct, Maple Bee's voice is still the delicious shiver it always was. Now, Huski, the surge forward, if you please.

FreyiaOn all the promo photos I've seen around the web, Freyia is depicted with Mr. Spock-style pointy ears. But I don't think she's a Trekkie. I think the general idea is to create the impression that Freyia is a mystical, faery being, the inhabitant of a gossamer otherworld, denizen of an empyrean realm beyond the ken of us mere mortals. Then again, she just might be a Trekkie.

Well, here comes Freyia in real life, and she hasn't got the pointy ears. She has, however, got a band of robust rock blokes around her, and she's doing...well, melodic AOR. Just that. Nothing more.

She gives it the full-throttle vocal, the lads lay down the just-so riffs, and frankly it all sounds like the kind of anthemic soft metal that you'd expect from AOR divas such as Robin Beck or Lee Aaron - scaled down a bit to fit the back room of a pub, for sure, but there's no mistaking the influence of Enormodome-scale soft rock. It's all about as mystical as a compilation of Heart's greatest hits, and for all I know that's what Freyia's singing as I head for the door. I wish Freyia well on her chosen musical journey, as long as that journey doesn't come anywhere near me. It'll take more than a few winsome pointy-eared publicity pix to make her brand of follow-the-rules AOR interesting.

 

Freyia: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Huski: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Kristal And Jonny Boy: MySpace | Facebook

A Band Called Quinn: MySpace | Facebook

For more photos from this gig, find Huski and Kristal And Jonny Boy by name here.

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