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Soho Dolls
Trash FashionTrash Fashion
Underworld, London
Friday March 9 2007


Trash Fashion represent a phenomenon the music meeja would have us believe is the latest cool thing: new rave. That rather contrived generic term identifies a crossover mash-up of indie rock and bangin' E-head dance beats, which is supposedly big news with at least some of da kidz right now. Trash Fashion, we're told, are one of the scene's leading bands.

Well, that's as maybe. Decked out in self-consciously 'wacky' outfits, as if they couldn't quite decide whether they wanted to attend a youth club disco or make a workout video, the band yells and freaks and squeals through a set of Lucozade-headrush songs. It's as if someone fed Pop Will Eat Itself amphetamines for a month and then rather unwisely invited them to a children's party.

Fun for one song, maybe even two if you're feeling generous, but the band's relentless zany schitck quickly starts to grate. Perhaps this drops a clue to why, for all Trash Fashion's alleged status as the soundrack of the new cool scene (not to mention their coterie of loyal girlie fans in hot off the peg high street casualwear) they're still languishing at the arse end of an Underworld bill. Rictus-grin wackiness is no substitute for real musical substance. As for new rave - personally, I think it sounds rather old hat. I mean, surely we've done the indie/raver crossover thing before? Except first time round, we didn't call it new rave. We called it Happy Mondays.

TrademarkI'm sure you've often wondered what would happen if The Human League ended up designing furniture for Ikea. Hey, I know I've puzzled over that one many a time. Well, I suspect the result would look something like Trademark's stage set-up - elaborate custom keyboard stands featuring backlit panels which glow and flash in erie fashion as the band rinse out a selection of amiable synthpop tunes.

What's more, I suspect Trademark have carefully rehearsed every last on-stage move. The way the three members of the band - all suited and booted in their electro-executive best - switch from one keyboard to another, then all congregate together on one, leaning forward intently as if watching nuclear fusion take place right there inside their laptop, suggests long hours spent getting the show just so.

As it happens, the band spend so much time switching positions and striking attitudes behind their furniture that it's hard to escape the thought that nobody on stage is actually playing anything. I suspect that what we've got here is a good old backing track band, and while that might not be any real drawback in the electro-world it does rather illustrate one rather uncomfortable impression I just can't shake: for Trademark, the show is the thing. The music is rather less important. 'Amiable synthpop' might sound like blandly faint praise, but in truth I can't think of a better term for the Trademark sound. Great show, guys, but it's a slight shame about the nice-but-forgettable music.

If the previous two bands have, one way or another, relied on a gimmicky stage show to grab attention, it's something of a relief to note that the Soho Dolls have de-gimmicked their own show. Previously, you could rely on vocalist Maya to strip down to a strategically placed length of gaffa tape for added showbiz sleazoid glam. Now, doubtless to the chagrin of the blokes at the front, she keeps her clothes on. That's not the only change that has occurred in Dollsworld: the band also has Soho Dollsa new keyboard player, a new bassist...and a drummer. That amounts to near enough a whole new band, but Maya and guitarist Toni are still hanging in there, and in any case the entire line-up hangs together well enough to convince you that the band has always been this way.

Robust, rhythm-driven glam-pop is the Dolls' musical territory, and if they're a bit more rocky and a bit less electro-y now than before, well, that works for me. Toni wallops his guitar as if he's getting in touch with his inner Hanoi Rocks, but with songs like 'Prince Harry' in the set - a wistful little unrequited-love number directed at one of our more tiresome young princes, which may or may not be intended as ironic - the band's natural pop sensibility still rules. Topping off the set, 'Stripper' is still the splendidly gonzoid stompalong it always was, a neat encapsulation of the Soho dolls' gleeful gutter glamour. Even if, these days, nobody's actually getting their kit off.



Essential links:

Soho Dolls: Website | MySpace
Trademark: Website | MySpace
Trash Fashion: Website | MySpace

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

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