Around this chilly time of year there seems to be one excellent gigging constant: come the annual British Independent Venue Week our European friends will guffaw at the corny flakiness of Brexit and happily hop over the Channel to help celebrate the joys of the UK’s ever-refreshing toilet circuit. 2022 saw POM POKO roll in from Oslo to dazzle the Pandaman at a packed Norwich Arts Centre and beyond, and 2023 sees the turn of PIP BLOM to amble over from Amsterdam to serenade a sold out Face Bar in Reading.
Although ‘ambling’ possibly isn’t the perfect description for their sonic truth as Pip’s squeezy hipster gang thunders through the history of international indie thrustings. One minute it’s all chunky popness, like Pixies cuddling the Cardigans. Then Pip’s upbeat vocals collide with low-slung bass action and some devilishly twisted melodic invention, and it’s not unlike like Kenickie crossing swords with New Order. In one sense, it sounds like the longest Peel session you’re ever heard. In another sense, Pip Blom’s charmingly petulant noise sounds a tiny wee bit like The Primitives being pushed down a really long escalator.
ITALIA 90 aren’t actually foreign. In fact, with their Brighton-cum-South London poet punk rootings they couldn’t be more British if they tried, helped in no small part by frontman Les Miserable (we know, we know) being decked out like a double decker bus driver from 1979, all braces and bovver boots. If they look hard then they play hard as well, all brutalist noise and political leerings. But this is their debut album launch night at the 100 Club (sadly not renamed the 90 Club for the evening, which seems like a terrible oversight) so while Les rants and anti-raves there is joy to be had with an increasingly melodic sonic palette, an ever-widening moshpit and the arrival onstage of Sam The Plumber for some spoken word fun.
Following a similar theme, over at the Old Blue Last in Shoreditch it turns out headliners
L’OBJECTIF aren’t from Lille or Lyon, they are down from the Parissiene walkways of, uh, Leeds. Tremendously good they are too, four old school indie kids properly ganging up on a Friday night hipster crowd and refusing to be cowed by the So Young showcase occasion. In fact, they come out all melodic guns blazing with a frontman channelling the arty early ’90s spirit of Damon Albarn with an Ian Curtis haircut. Very tidy, very tight, very bolshy. A bionic update of The Bodines’ C86-era guitaring antics? Oh, go on then.
Mind you, stretching the conceptual naming vibe to snapping point for a moment, it’s safe to say supporting cast ALIEN CHICKS haven’t crashlanded in from Mars or any galaxy 500 light years away. Another London-based collective they are a hectic, eclectic trio and purveyors of a dense, chewy punk rock sound. It’s savvy and bendy enough to warrant a nod from any passing admirers of Black Midi, but it’s also furious fun not lacking in surprising flourishes of pop sunshine.
Not all homegrown bands have set their sights on some kind of eurovision glory – in fact, some new acts this month have gone down the positively prosaic Old Blighty B-road with their name choices. Enter CARDBOARD (CARDBOARD??), who headline the monthly Karousel night at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney. They are beefy and maley and make a big old raucous indierock noise with a mutton-chopped singer who looks like he should be in some maley, beefy, early ‘70s band like Geordie.
At the other far, far end of the musical scale, over at the Shacklewell Arms in Dalston PENCIL (PENCIL???) are sweet and chilled. There are two singers. There is one sad violin. There is depth and a deathly elegance which would have Scott Walker reaching for the stars, a squall of sound with a lovely deadpan acoustic uplift. Post-cosmic rock FFO Talk Talk and Pink Floyd, as we would have said in the olden days.
Still, CARDBOARD…and PENCIL?? Presumably we should expect a Ryman’s national tour any week now. Someone who certainly isn’t stuck in the stationary cupboard however is the infinitely more exotically-monikered ANNA B SAVAGE, an artist fond of the odd hair-raising press interview made to make indie boys blush. She’s playing solo at her ‘in|FLUX’ album launch at Rough Trade East, and she’s performing with a sultry elegance which hushes the sober early evening crowd.
Like distant dark cousins Polly Harvey and Nadine Shah, Anna B believes in the power of shadowy intimacy: “I tried to write the perfect postcard / Which I won’t send to you,” she breathes at one especially pained point, for hers is a world of heartbreak and lost passion and gently windswept acoustic hollerings. “Stop haunting me, please,” she pleads to the ghost in the machine – her love might be on the rocks, but Anna B Savage is v elegant to the very end.
Lastly, but never leastly, over at Norwich Voodoo Daddy’s Pip Blom’s high energy friends from the Lowlands, PERSONAL TRAINER, are starting off on a sold out tour…but we have run out of time, so more on them next month.
Ciao for now…
PANDAMAN’S 2023 PERFORMANCE TOTAL: 56