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Johnny Cola & The A Grades
The Featherz

Barfly, London
Tuesday April 8 2014

Last time I saw Hotgothic, it was 2008, the band were a somewhat ranshackle electro-duo, and their name was two words. Now there are three of them, they've got a bass guitar clanking and grumbling its way around the drum machine beats, and they've closed the gap between the hot and the gothic.


The result of all this re-engineering is that Hotgothic come across like a Eurovision Song Contest version of Depeche Mode. Their songs are cacophonous rhythm-workouts topped by an assertive yelp of a vocal chant, with the whole caboodle played for kitsch value. You can dance to their tunes entirely seriously if you like, or grin along with the fun factor. It works either way, although the relentless clatter of the drum machine - which doesn't alter much in tempo or rhythm-pattern throughout the set - does tend to outstay its welcome after a while.

Hotgothic walk a rather unsteady line between knockabout comedy and knowing self-parody, and while I have a sneaking suspicion that they're having more fun than the audience, one thing's for sure. They're post-modernism in the shape of a pop group. God help us all.

Now its time to rewind the rock clock to the glamtastic end of the seventies. That's the era that informs The Featherz' sound and style. They look like they've just ram-raided Kensington Market in a Ford Cortina, and they play it fast and tight and rocky, like a Sweet B-side. The sound is built around slash 'n' burn rhythm guitar, the vocals are a Vicky Fury freak-out. Every song is a short, sharp energy-grenade, lobbed off the stage with gleeful aplomb and plenty of rock 'n' roll showboating.The Featherz

The Featherz have fans in the house, too, a bunch of glam rock aficionados down the front who hang on every guitar-schlang and vocal whoop. One fan is even rocking a Gary Glitter look. A bold style choice these days, it must be said.

But for all their evident fanbase and expertly delivered killer licks, I get the impression that The Featherz are still a very much a new band.

Their debt to their influences looms over them like the Phantom of the Paradise. Their song 'Rock 'n' Roll Star' shamelessly steals from David Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs', and when the band throw in a cover, it's 'Ziggy Stardust'. They kick Ziggy around with great gusto, but the song is a no-brainer selection, in a way - and, of course, the definitive cover has already been done.

I'd like to hear more of The Featherz themselves in their music, and less of the obvious influences. (Unobvious influences would be good, mind - how about a Jobraith cover?) But I guess all that stuff comes in time. Keep an eye on this band, and watch The Featherz fly.

We stay in the glam zone now, but shift slightly more towards the Suede-ish end of things. Here come Jonny Cola & The A Grades, draping themselves over the stage like the gang of cool lads who are slightly too old for the youth club disco, but still turn up to impress the girls.

Jonny Cola himself is suited and booted, the slightly spivvy leader of the gang - you just know he's the one that thinks up all the capers and pranks.

The band swing into a set of chunky, robust, glammy-rockers, dosed with just enough post-punk juice to keep the sound contemporary.

The A Grades throw in a fine repertoire of moves and grooves amid the churning sound, and with any other band you'd expect a certain amount of deliberate pastiche - but the A Grades can turn on a bit of showbiz and it seems like a natural component of their art.

Jonny Cola is ever the affable master of ceremonies, ripping out a fine British rock 'n' roll wail of a vocal in his more impassioned moments. But he always returns to his role as the genial president of the party as the songs crackle to a close.

In a way, it's hard to watch Jonny Cola & The A Grades without the thought occurring that Suede have already been there and done this stuff - but then again, there's probably room at the youth club juice bar for a few more reprobates to lean on it, sneaking vodka into their lemonade and leading the kids into temptation. This party isn't over yet.

Johnny Cola & The A Grades: Website | Facebook

The Featherz: Facebook

Hotgothic: Facebook


For more photos from this gig, find Jonny Cola & The A Grades and The Featherz by name here.

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

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