So last time out the Pandaman diary left y’all dangling on a right old riffhanger as we started the February column with the double Dutch delights of PIP BLOM at Reading Face Bar and ended with a tease about their Lowlanding friends PERSONAL TRAINER at Voodoo Daddy’s in Norwich.
As they have quiet bits and loud bits and upside down bits and punk bits and complex musical outbursts, Euro cliche protocol dictates that we shall compare the numerous PT activists to their continental peers the Wannadies and dEUS. Yet there is even more going on in their raucous hyperactivity, not least because of singer Willem Smit: sweating like a husky in a sauna, he is a bear of a crowd-cuddling frontman who brings a maddened LCD Soundsystem vibe to any party – this is his music and we will hecking well all own it. Have me mentioned the way Personal Trainer suddenly lurch into fist-pumping, tattoo-shaking emoscreamo anthems? No, no we haven’t.
Across the funtime Fens at Cambridge Corn Exchange SUEDE’s Brett Anderson is scarcely lacking in the feisty frontman stakes. In a year when the likes of Blur and Pulp have sold thousands of summertime tickets to appeal to all the retro-a-go-goers out there, seeing their pre-Britpop peers Suede sway a string of sold out crowds on the back of their ‘Autofiction’ album is hardly a surprise. But this is no mere victory parade – support act Desperate Journalist bring a noirish gothic undercurrent to the tour and Suede freely admit that that very gothic noirishness has influenced their own new release.
So here we have a fully re-re-energised rock experience: if proto Suede were all about fey fringe-flapping glam-faced posturing the ’23 model is a ridiculously lithe live darkrock experience, with an irrepressible and implausibly svelte Brett cavorting hither and thither across the stage. Half the crowd is swooning, the other half are gloomily contemplating their beer bellies. Life rolls on.
Continuing the retro theme, TRIBES pop up at a sold out underplay show at the Dublin Castle in sunny Camden. Totally deliberate it is too – by the time the shabbily cool foursome originally appeared in the mid-noughties the indie hipsters were already emigrating to the shabby artrocking environs of East London in their droves – the irony being that it was the Britpop era which made Camden such a hotspot that within a decade no upcoming artist could afford to actually live there. (Britpop royalty meanwhile simply upgraded to Primrose Hill).
So this is a kind of homecoming, with various DJs, music hacks, label bosses and promoters who propped up the venue bar at the turn of the century here in full, if slightly frayed effect. Tribes play their part by peddling big old school indierocking vibes with big glammy choruses and a cheerily beaten up Beatleseqsue undercurrent which makes the dear old Dublin blush royally. Next stop is the DMA’s support at Wembley Arena. The retro rocking continues unabated.
It isn’t just indieboys throwing glances at the past – over in the shabby artrocking environs of East London, specifically at the Shacklewell Arms, we find the abrupt and heartily disruptive duo known as SCAB. In the 1980s they would have been shouting away at the Sir George Robey (RIP) in Finsbury Park and making all kinds of hardcore sense. To witness this kind of brutalist behaviour in the dark alleyways of Dalston in 2023 is like finding a moose on the moon, ie almost utterly astonishing.
Yet we live in a world where Earache Records are still having bona fide hit albums a lifetime or three after the mental success of Extreme Noise Terror, so perhaps Scab’s scabrous thrashings make some kind of sense, no matter the artrocking hipsters’ confusion. The ‘songs’ are short sharp brutal shocks, the topless drummer’s man boobs thashing around like excitable puppy dogs as he shouts along, while the guitarist shouts in a slightly higher key. Rather excellently, Scab look even more threatening when mid-set they take off their sweaty balaclavas.
Speaking of twosomes, JADU HEART are one of those top secrets that have been whispered about right in plain sight. The mysteriously mysterious boy / girl duo sold out Islington Assembly Hall months ago, and you can immediately see why – always trust a band who can make you mope slowly but dance wildly at precisely the same time. There have been mutterings of ‘dreampop’ floating around their ether, and for sure at one precise point they cruise headlong into the dazed spirit of Curve, but theirs is a curiously appealing mix of raw gothic intensity and synthetic boomings, counterbalanced by a fragrant violin and some whipcracking drums.
So Jadu Heart are electronic, but humane; they nod at Garbage but are far from rubbish; they make music which is intimate, yet colossally stadium sized. Even a lengthy mid-set bass breakdown break fails to kill this party – verily, Jadu Heart take no techno prisoners.
THE PANDAMAN’S 2023 TOTAL: 75