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Favours For Sailors
The Neat The Neat

White Heat @ Madame Jojo's, London
Tuesday January 20 2009



Cream cakes are nice, but you wouldn't want to eat them at every meal. And angular, stop-and-start, jerky-shouty post-punky bands are nice, too - but I'm wondering how many more of 'em the gig circuit can accommodate before it all goes into overload.

The Neat are the latest band to emerge from the increasingly crowded angular area - four deceptively normal lads, who, on stage, transform themselves into a veritable paroxysm of twitchy rhythm and agitated guitar. Two voices compete to be heard over the uproar, shouting, chanting, challenging each other.

And yes, I like it. My inner new wave kid is provoked into a virtual pogo. But here's the thing: I've heard this stuff done before, by These New Puritans, by The Fall, by the Gang Of Four (that two-voices thing is very Gang Of Four).

While The Neat are pretty good at nailing new wave to the wall, the awkward fact is that so many other new wave-ish bands are whacking their own nails into that wall right now that it surely can't be long before the brickwork crumbles. The best bands, the leading lights, the real creatives, will survive such an eventuality, of course. But I think The Neat need to be a little more like themselves and a bit less like their influences if they're going to dodge the falling masonry.

Favours For SailorsFor some years now, my personal benchmark for the Worst Band Name Ever has been Sportsbra - yep, they were a real band. They didn't become famous. That name surely couldn't have helped.

But tonight there's a new contender for the Worst Band Name Ever trophy (a chipped coffee mug with mysterious stains inside it).

Favours For Sailors sounds like something that goes on in the back streets of port cities, but in fact the name is attached to an amiable bunch of casually-dressed geezers who give the distinct impression that they formed the band for a laugh after a night down the pub.

Just how casually dressed are they? The guitarist is wearing brown tasselled loafers, the most un-rock 'n' roll footwear on the planet. That's how casually dressed they are.

The band makes a solid indie-rock racket, which manages to be inoffensive enough for me not to actively dislike it, while also being so blandly undistinguished that, try as I might, I can't find anything to particularly like. Every song sounds like a middle-of-the-album filler track, a slice of musical bread and butter - providing bulk but not much nourishment. In the end, maybe that ghastly name isn't such a bad idea after all. It gives Favours For Sailors a heads-up that their music doesn't quite provide.

Now that we're being all analytical about band names, what of KASMs? A weird name - it could be a word or an acronym. A name that starts out with a hard consonant and ends with a certain sinuous fluidity. A name that might conceal meaning, or maybe the band just couldn't spell 'Chasms'.

A name that you can be pretty sure hasn't already been taken by ten other bands on MySpace (mind you, KASMsthat's also fairly certain with Favours For Sailors, because who in their right mind would want that one?). KASMs is a name that doesn't reveal much, but hints that the band behind it could be interesting.

And, of course, KASMs are interesting. They're more than interesting. They're a pounding, grinding, shrieking bout of controlled bedlam, which is just the kind of interesting we like around here.

So, here come KASMs, perched precariously on the narrow stage, pop songs and pandemonium in equal measures. Singer Rachel Callaghan is all flounces and flailing, a one-woman turmoil of skirts.

The songs flicker like sonic strobelight, pounding bass and drums and guitar that pokes the listener with sharp objects. 'Mackerel Sky' is all splinters and tribalism, 'Bone You' is yer actual punk rock, deployed with manic panache.

The set rushes to its finish, and the band dismantle themselves, piece by piece. Each member leaves the stage, the sound thinning out as each instrument is taken out of contention. Eventually, there's only Scott Walker on drums remaining. He unscrews a cymbal - still in mid-rhythm - stands up, and drops it on the floor. Crash. He walks off. The end. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to do it.


Essential links:

Website | MySpace

Favours For Sailors: MySpace

The Neat: MySpace

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

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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
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