In layman's terms: A blog about music, by Luke Slater and James Welbourn.

18 February 2008

Los Campesinos!, Johnny Foreigner, Sparky Deathcap @ Bedford Esquires, 12/2/2008

The atmosphere in Esquires is sober with anticipation both before and after the reverb-and delay laden performance of Sparky Deathcap, whose raw and remorseful vocals are delivered to a crowd who clearly warm to his howls and finger-picked electric folk as the set progresses. His creative use of a sampler did seem to leave some members of the crowd a little nonplussed, however. Sparky howls and bawls his way through a set of melancholic numbers, reminiscent of Will Oldham’s incarnation as Palace Music on Arise Therefore, though you get the feeling that he feels slightly out of place on this bill.

Frenzied just isn’t a strong enough word to describe Birmingham trio Johnny Foreigner’s music. Chaotic comes close. Manic? You’re getting there…Los Campesinos! May be the seven-piece on the bill tonight, but as soon as Champagne Girls I Have Known” bursts from the PA, you hear a band whose sound is far more raucous and ear-blowingly powerful than from your average three-piece. Johnny Foreigner are far from average though.

Bassist Kelly, who tonight looks akin to a rock ‘n’ roll little red riding hood, and frenetic front-man Alexei exchange vocals like two kids warring in the playground, while drummer Junior provides near flawless fast-paced stick-work from the back.

“Sofacore” provides a climax to this startlingly energetic set as Alexei’s guitar is flayed around as freely as his fringe, Junior ups the tempo on the skins, and Kelly is Deal-esque on bass. Another typically trademark whirlwind performance from Johnny Foreigner tonight, which feels like it’s over as soon as it’s started, but one which is loaded with tonnes of substance and promise.

The minute stage leaves Los Campesinos! looking slightly like a bizarre identity parade, with guitarists Neil and Tom morphing into Siamese twins joined at the hip, and everyone else finding space wherever they can.

You wonder how well the Los Campesinos! sound will translate live, using a melodica and glockenspiel in their heavily layered compositions, but, except for some vocals being on the quiet side, the sound is pretty much bang on. The delivery of each clink and frenetically uttered lyric is as tight as the duck’s proverbial with barely a beat out of place.

Lead-man Gareth’s performance is as sharp as his haircut as they scamper through “Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats” and then merrily skip through “Please Don’t Tell Me To Do The Math(s)” and “Death To Los Campesinos!” to the delight of the crowd, who handclap and finger snap their way along gleefully.

“You! Me! Dancing!” is a six-and-a-half-minute opus with a chorus that switches between excitable exclamations and the most regretful lyrics about dancing since George Michael sang about his guilty, rhythmless feet. Los Campesinos!’ impressive performance climaxes with the brilliant “... And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison” before launching into an hyperactive rendition of “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” which has the crowd in a chorus of even more handclaps and some excitable moves on the dance floor.

No sign of an encore, but Los Campesinos!’ creative variety of indie-pop leaves me, unable to resist at the very least joyfully whistling their infectious choruses as I exit onto the streets. On the back of this performance this may be the last time they play
Bedford, but I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Los Campesinos! in the future.




[Review taken from Drowned in Sound]

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