Fat White Family
Hoxton Hall, London
Saturday July 27 2013
Hoxton Hall might have been built a hundred-odd
years ago as a vaudeville venue, but it lends itself rather well to the
cause of rock 'n' roll.
Tonight, Vuvuvultures launch their album amid an assortment of attractions, including vintage video games on the balcony, hi-fi headphone demos in the bar...and bands in the big room..
Fat White Family count as an assortment of attractions in themselves. A gang of half-naked young chaps, making a ramshackle sleazoid noise, they're more messy than edgy but they have a certain falling-about charm.
songs are ragged, low-slung romps, the band a flurry of spindly limbs.
Somehow, they keep the proceedings on the right side of chaos, although
it teeters on the brink more than once. As the keyboard falls off its stand
and the guitarist stretches out on the floor as if he's decided to take
a nap mid-set, while his colleagues gurn and flail around him, it all turns
into a bit of a scrabble. But it's a nice scrabble, and - just about -
a controlled scrabble.
Slaves manage to be unsettlingly intense during their songs, and disarmingly boys-next-door between them. They're a duo of guitar and stand-up drums, and you can imagine them down the youth club, trying to put a band together, but never quite managing to assemble a full line-up because nobody wants to play with the weirdos.
So here they are, just the two of them, battering and hollering through their songs of small-town angst and suburban stress. The drummer lays into his kit as if it's just spilt his pint, while the guitarist grabs and snatches at his six strings as if he's the hooker in a rugby scrum.
But just as
we're starting to feel a little apprehensive at all this laddish rowdiness,
the boys take time out to explain the stories behind their songs - 'Where's
Your Car, Debbie?' being a particularly convoluted tale of misadventure
involving monsters in the Kent countryside. Slaves manage to be oddly endearing,
in a boisterous boys from
the 'burbs kind of way, even as their music churns aggressively. Youth
club weirdos for the win.
Turning up the showbiz in an outfit that seems
to be mostly staps, Harmony Boucher, Vuvuvultures' vocalist, is the visual
focus of a band that otherwise keeps things resolutely dressed down.
In a way it's an incongrous image, for on the face of it you'd expect
her to be fronting some sort of cyberfetish industrial band at the Slimelight
rather than delivering bursts of off-kilter pop in a 19th century pleasure
But that's Vuvuvultures: tying all the tangents in a knot, and presenting us with an audio-visual package that works because of its off-kilterness, rather than in spite of it.
And yes, Vuvuvultures are a pop group, rather than a rock band. They're like a collision between XTC and Transvision Vamp - the unexpected angles and wayward catchiness of the music rubbing up against a certain unconventional sense of glam.
Tonight 'I'll Cut You' has a bittersweet sway, 'Stay Still' galumphs along merrily, as if it's just got out of school on the last day of term, while 'Cntrl Alt Mexicans' is a killer bump 'n' grind. It's all delivered with a well-judged combination of gauche glamour and knowing savoir-faire, as Harmony stomps around the stage in her straps and boots, while the band scare up chunky rhythms from the air.
Pop music, kids. This is how you do that stuff.