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Artrocker signMiss Pain
Innercity Pirates
Lesser Panda
Artrocker club @ Buffalo Bar, London
Tuesday January 22 2008

 

 

 

 

Heads up, artrockers of London. It's Tuesday night. That means it's time to turn your pointy boots in the direction of that red-paintedbasement somewhere under the streets of Islington, the Buffalo bar. Tonight we're here for another of Artrocker magazine's regular club events, at which assorted post-punkers, modern popstrels, and denizens of the left-field indie-ish zone get to show what they can do.

 

Lesser PandaWhat Lesser Panda can do is, essentially, throw down taut indie-dance workouts, every song based around a no-shit beat, over which guitars throw chunks and vocals wail. The Artrocker website namechecks Bauhaus by way of a comparison, but while it's true that the band has a song which sounds like the first cousin of 'Kick in The Eye' (it even has the samne 'Ahhhh-Ooooh' backing vocals) there's no real similarity otherwise.

Instead, Lesser Panda trawl their influences somewhat more widely, and construct a robust, rhythmic noise that nods in the direction of Gang of Four-ish punk-funk while remaining rooted in the dark soil of introspective indie. A sort of Smiths you can dance to, in a way. The boys in the band favour casual scruffiness by way of style: we're very much in the casually scruffy jeans 'n' T-shirts zone here, and I have to say I'm a little underwhelmed by the band's no-image image. Yeah, yeah - I know what you're going to say - it's the music that matters, right? Well, sure, but rock 'n' roll (even at the left-field indie dance end of things) is an audio-visual art form. Lesser Panda have the makings of a cool after-dark indie dancefloor sound, but I'd appreciate it if they didn't dress like model railway enthusiasts while they were making it.

 

Innercity PiratesInnercity Pirates look the part. That is, they're rocking the cool-indie-kids-in-the-student-union-bar style (there, a whole swathe of fashion instantly defined!) and they have a suitably ripped up sound to go with it. I'm reminded of all those where-are-they-now indie bands I used to hear on Janice Long's evening show on Radio One, years ago (The Weather Prophets - they coulda bin contenders, you know) and if that makes Innercity Pirates sound like they're following a well-trodden trail...well, perhaps they are.

The songs are punchy, but not quite punky; the guitar is abrasive without ever quite roughing the listener up. They're a pop group, but they sound like their world is defined by student union discos and murky inde clubs, nights of subsidised cider and bashed-up songs full of jangle and fuzz. The band captures the mood and the sound of quintessential indie-dom rather well, although I wonder if they really stamp their own identity on the music with sufficient authority. I dare say we'll see.

 

There can be no quibbles with Miss Pain's ability to establish their own identity. All of a sudden, we've left the indie disco and we're now present at a surreal performance art happening, hosted with deadpan humour by three glammed-up conceptualists who seem to have beamed down from a Top Of The Pops audience, circa 1982. The three Pains are dressed in white and acssesorised with pink feathers, don't ask me why.

The girl-Pains, wearing exquisite head prefect expressions, frown over their array of vintage analogue synths as if expecting them to do somerthingMiss Pain naughty any minute. The boy-Pain grins amiably and totes his guitar like a reluctant rock star. They kick up a racket that sounds like Devo being shoved down a waste disposal unit while the B-52s smash crockery in the background. It's all angles and thumps, synth-squiggles and squelches, exhilarating and accessible even as it gets gloriously weird.

In short, Miss Pain produce splendidly off-kilter pop-art in action, delivered with an ironically arched eyebrow and many a sideways glance. All of which, incidentally, cannot quite drive the thought from my mind that Miss Pain mean it, man. For all their delightful oddity, in the heads of the Pains this is pop music, pure and simple. Somewhere, these songs are chart-toppers, and the Pains rattle through their alternate-universe hits with gleeful aplomb.

'Heartbreaker' is a reductionist soap-opera set to the rattle of a beat box; and surely no human being with an even slightly wayward soul could dislike the crump and fizz of 'Endoscopy Blues' (the title alone does it for me). By way of a big finish, the band launches into a pell-mell version of Roxy Music's 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache', which in turn mutates into a freeform rant as Sarah Pain, on vocals, exorcises the demons of her teenage Bryan Ferry crush - a crush sadly diminished these days by Ferry's metamorphosis into a recationary old buffer. Oh, if only Bryan could be here to witness his ritual denunciation over churning Eno-esque electronics. His Marks and Spencer suit lapels would shrivel in shame. The song shudders to a halt amid analogue anarchy, and as Miss Pain quit the stage I ponder the thought that we've just seen pop music squished like plasticine into strangely enticing new shapes.

 

Miss PainEssential links:

Miss Pain: Website | MySpace
Innercity Pirates: MySpace
Lesser Panda: Website | MySpace

Artrocker Club: MySpace

For more photos from this gig,
find Miss Pain here.

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