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Gene Loves Jezebel
Soho Dolls
Miss T And The Japanese Tourists
Kandinski

Purple Turtle, London
Saturday February 4 2006

Is it me, or is half the indie scene going MOR these days? We're expected to hail the likes of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Embrace as heroes of the alternative music world, when all they do is perform the kind of mawkish easy-listening ballads which could put an entire dentist's waiting room to sleep in five minutes. I don't like it, but, clearly, plenty of other people do - and there are plenty of bands out there which aspire to some of that indie-MOR success.

Kandinski strike me as just such a band. Measured, mannered, impeccably arranged, even to the just-so vocal harmonies, Kandinski's music is the kind of stuff that, no doubt, will be hailed very shortly as 'well-crafted' by everyone from the NME to XFM, if they're not saying such things already. Me, I think it's the sonic equivalent of pouring semolina into your ears. And I'm not ready for dessert just yet.

Miss T And The Japanese Tourists are not, as far as I can gather, Japanese...or tourists. What they are is brash and loud and fun, in a bright, trebly, Motown meets X-Ray Spex kind of way. Miss T herself, elaborately be-corseted and wearing a top hat that makes her look like the ringmistress of a circus, is amiable and bubbly, and sings in a gale force blast that is downright disconcerting if you weren't expecting such vocal power to be unleashed in your direction.

Meanwhile, the boys in the band keep themselves low-key and keep the music coming. While there's not a lot of variety on offer - each song is essentially built from the same new-wavey pop blueprint, and Miss T's vocals never really deviate from her trademark powerpop foghorn style - it's nevertheless engaging stuff, and certainly in Miss T the band has frontwoman with enough sparkiness to carry the show.

 

The Soho Dolls troop on stage like a glam rock army. They're primed and ready to boogie, in that electropunk-glam way of theirs, and they waste no time in getting the party started. Riffs and bleeps roll out of the PA in roughly equal quantities, and somehow the band manage to weld these disparate sounds together into music which works. No, it more than simply works - it's compelling stuff, as if Mott The Hoople met Donna Summer in a lift and they decided to get on down together.

Vocalist Maya takes off most of her clothes - not, it must be said, a huge task since she's not wearing many to start with - and it says much for her force of personality that nobody in the audience even thinks of greeting this spectacle with the traditional British 'Phwooooarr!'

The Dolls could've quite easily headlined tonight, but the set is truncated to support-band length, so after what seems like only a mere handful of songs it's thanks for the good stuff and goodbye.

Now, when you're writing about Gene Loves Jezebel, it is first necessary to explain which Gene Loves Jezebel you're talking about. And then, of course, you have to explain why there are two. This, inevitably, means that any review of the band(s) ends up becoming a dissertation on the convoluted history of the Aston brothers' rocky relationship, all the splits and reconciliations and splits again, which, over the years, has resulted in the bizarre situation we're in today.

Each Aston brother now fronts his own version of Gene Loves Jezebel, and each performs to an audience significantly smaller than their combined forces could command. Not, it's clear, a brilliant career move for either side, but nobody's about to back down. Trouble is, nobody can win, either.

Tonight, we are about to witness Michael Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel, which on close inspection turns out to be Michael Aston and a couple of hired musos on acoustic guitar and drums. (Apparently, the original plan was to put together a full line-up, but nobody could find a bassist - you may draw your own conclusions about the for-realness of this version of the band at this point, if you wish.) The set, therefore, is a low-key acoustic affair, and although it's necessary to suspend your disbelief from an unfeasibly high level to accept that what we're seeing here is anything other than a Michael Aston solo gig, it's not a bad show in its way.

Michael Aston comes across as self-deprecating and friendly; he sits down to sing and keeps it all informal. Endearingly, I see he's even given himself just a touch of rouge on his cheeks - ah, once a glammie always a glammie, eh, Michael?

The songs work encouragingly well in their stripped-down form. Old hits from the glory days turn up - everyone sings along to 'Desire' - and the newer songs such as 'Downhill Both Ways' and 'Exploding Girl' from Michael Aston's recent album under the Gene Loves Jezebel name sound sharper and more poignant that the AOR-ish recorded versions.

At the end, the applause is heartfelt and well deserved. Michael Aston looks a little relieved to have got through the gig, but he needn't have worried. Gene Loves Jezebel fans might have had their patience tried more than most over the years, but despite all the tiresome shennanigans and not-quite-convincing versions of the band that have emerged from time to time, there's still something here worth waiting for.

 

Essential links:

Gene Loves Jezebel:

Michael Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel website

And also ...

Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel website

Soho Dolls: Website | Myspace

Miss T And The Japanese Tourists: Website | Myspace

Kandinski: Website | Myspace

 

For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.

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  Page credits: Review, photos & construction by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.