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Proud Camden, London
Thursday March 4 2010


The carefully contrived scruffy-but-edgy cool of Proud Camden, a night spot that would have us believe it's actually an art gallery, is something of a mixed blessing when a bunch of bands haul in for a gig. The stage sits amid framed art-photographs, arrayed with precision on the white walls; an appropriate location for a bit of art rock, you might think.

But in fact the logistics aren't all that favourable. The band room sits between two other spaces where, tonight, DJs are doing their thing amid yet more art. Thus it is that throughout the night there's a constant flow of people walking through the room - strolling casually right past the stage without giving the bands a glance. It's hard to whip up some art rock atmosphere when you're effectively playing in a corridor.

Still, William give it a go. William are a band, rather than a solo artist. Giving a band a name as if it was a person is either interestingly conceptual or annoyingly twee, depending on your view of these things. How long before we get a band called Dave? (Don't tell me, someone's already done it). Anyway, William turn out to be three blokes in post-grunge scruffwear, and they make a high-drama indie racket that occasionally approaches Pixies-ish levels of rock-out-ness. The guitarist stands sideways and emotes in a high-pitched, keening vocal: across the stage from him the bassist stomps and lurches and generally gives it the indie-rock bruiser treatment. I seem to have used the word 'indie' twice already, but there's no escaping it. William are entirely, defiantly, indie.

LovechildNow here comes Lovechilde, a singular name for a two-piece band.  A gentleman with garage-punk hair plays guitar and sings; a lady whacks a drumkit. So far, so White Stripes. But I'm prompted to pay Lovechild slightly more attention than than just noting that instant and over-obvious comparison, because the lady-on-drums is Victoria Smith, ex-Ipso Facto. I don't know if this is her Proper New Band, or if she's just passing through, but she hammers Lovechild's songs along like trains. She's the reason Lovechild sound dynamic and full-on. Her guitar-playing colleague, hiding almost bashfully behind his mop of hair, schlangs and clangs and yelps over the rhythm in a way that satisfies the time-honoured garage-punk aesthetic - but, I suspect, he might sound rather inconclusive if the drums weren't there to provide the essential foundation.

Two-piece rock 'n' roll minimalism isn't in itself anything new or radical nowadays, of course - those White Stripes certainly started something. Lovechilde have to prove they've got what it takes to make their mark in what is now a fairly well defined genre of its own. On this showing, I'm not entirely sure their guitarist has the chops to lead from the front. It's the drums, kicking it all along from behind, that show the way forward.

Tonight, Rachel Callaghan, KASMS' lead shrieker, is toting a guitar - at least for the first song. KASMS are a relatively established band now, at least in a London alternocircuit kind of way, and it might be understandable if they just carried on doing their thing like they've always done their thing. But the sudden appearance of that extra guitar hints that new stuff is brewing, and if Rachel's guitar playing is a little hesitant, a little I've-only-just-figured-out-how-to-play-this-contraption, it still represents a shove forward.

KASMSBut then she abandons her axe, the initial hesitancy gives way to spiky, gung-ho attitude, and KASMS plunge headlong into their trademark high-tension rough-and-tumble, shaking their new wave noise as if it's a can of fizzy pop coming up to bursting point. KASMs are all angles and agitation, energy kept  in check by songs that impose structure on the sparks. Bassist Gemma Fleet is the anchor in the storm, her basslines holding everything down even as her impassive presence acts as a foil to the swoops and lurches her bandmates describe, musically and physically, around her.

Alas, KASMS don't entirely get the better of the venue. Even when they hurl out a crackling, brakes-off 'Bone You' - a song which represents the band at their most pell-mell and punkzoid - there are still people walking through the room, intent on being elsewhere, indifferent to the energy and noise being created on stage. Proud's concept of itself as an arty watering-hole where live music is just a sideshow, a mere adjunct to the serious business of simply being seen in a trendy location, means there's no particular focus on the bands - and the walk-through layout of the place certainly doesn't help them to grab attention.

KASMS are, as ever, a burst of odd-angled animation, and they take on a less-than-ideal situation with plenty of spirit. But tonight none of the bands quite managed to win the battle against a venue that's a bit too cool for its own good.


KASMS: MySpace | Website

Lovechilde: MySpace

William: MySpace

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

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