Review: Indietracks 2010
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Friday kicks off with a warm-up session of three bands. Hotly-tipped scuzz-pop Londoners Veronica Falls' set starts in a strange manner with a inaudible "altercation" with the sound-man, complaints about the sound and them walking off after two songs (was this a soundcheck or had they started?) The band return to bang through an incredible set of dark, fuzz-filled pop including the incredible 'Beachy Head' and latest single 'Found Love in a Graveyard'. This will be the last time they play so low down on a bill.
Allo Darlin' make perfect pop. The outdoor stage is transformed into a smile-filled, dancing love-in. 'Kiss Your Lips' is a perfect euphoric moment - superb lyrics, beautiful sentiment and a catchy as flu tune. They can lift you to grinning, bouncing abandonment or reduce you into hushed, teary silence within minutes of each other. The band have such a good time it automatically urges the audience to join in.
So Mr Argos, the joke is wearing a little thin, isn't it? Really Eddie, you don't think so? You've got a new band with your missus! Called Everybody Was In The French Resistance....Now?
They are essentially Art Brut with an electro-pop edge, who have a concept! Namely writing answer ditties to songs they disagree with - it's all very post-modern. The sarcastic spoken vocals that made Art Brut's debut a breath of fresh air now grate a little. There is wit, there is some catchy tunage but there is nothing we haven't seen before.
Saturday is indie-pop stereotypes day. Nottingham's Red Shoe Diaries do a nice line in twee, by numbers indie-pop and Glasgow's The Felt Tips wear their Smiths and Postcard records influences not just on their sleeves but adorning their whole person ï¿½ not that any of this is bad, it's what we are here for!
Foxes! are pretty special. They play energetic, silly music but with the kind of accomplished musicianship not often seen with purveyors of shambolic pop. Like a subdued Bearsuit, with the key-driven quirks of Mates of State flitting between numerous genres (rock, pop, indie, folk) and playing with intense energy Foxes stir things in my belly - in a good way.
This Many Boyfriends recorded material really impressed earlier this year, which is why their outdoor stage performance is such a disappointment. Weak, understated and shambolic in execution rather than energy they need to seriously up their game in the live department if they want to stand out as more than just another indie outfit.
La La Love You may be named after a Pixies song (or I assume they are) but their bubble-gum pop-punk is straight from the Ramones rock n roll manual. In matching pink jackets, they look like punky rejects from Grease and bang through some serious by numbers punk so simple it could be for kids. It may be nothing new but it gets feet tapping and is a lot of fun.
Antarctica Takes It! are all smiles and joy and exude pure energy. Their intricate, subtle summery pop is perfect for the glimpse of sunshine the weekend's weather is now affording us. Part Belle and Sebastian, part Penguin Cafe Orchestra all wrapped in a loving soulful blanket - this band make big sounds intimate.
The terrible sound in the Indoor Shed negates the best thing about The Just Joans, their excellent lyrics. These can't be heard, but there's little that can be done in a giant shed. Each year the quality of several bands sets is impaired by the venue.
I really like The Smittens - but do I need to see them do pretty much the same set they have done at Indietracks for the last two years running? It's as good as usual but I have a distinct feeling of de ja vu.
Seeing White Town for the first time is a bit special for me (and many others). Back in 1997 (along with half the country) I bought an amazing single 'Your Woman', which was more amazing because it was made by an artist from my hometown of Derby. Seeing this song performed live is nostalgic and fresh in the same moment. In the intimate church it is 'Your Woman' that gets the obvious best response but it is the other songs of love and heartbreak that enthral. Jyoti Mishra may have only been a major label artist for a short while but this set proves he will always be a major creative force in British music.
Sunday gets off to a cracking start with indie poet-laureate MJ Hibbett and his band The Validators. The fact he is a bit of an indie-pop legend explains the large crowd for the first act of the day, that and the quality of his witty, observational odes to life and indiedom. There are few things more enjoyable than hearing the lyrics to tracks like 'Do the indie-kid', 'The Lesson of the Smiths' and 'Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid'. The inter-song banter is charming, the band are one of the tightest on show and all this makes for a Indietracks highlight.
In Indietracks land Cowtown a verging on being a prog-rock band - I mean they 'rock out' in a classic sense. Heavy riffs, quirky time-changes and kinetic synths/keys.
Both the rousing surf-rock n roll of the Specific Heats and the Mary Chain fuzz of The Blanche Hudson Weekend are buried under the sludgy Indoor stage sound - which is a shame because both are really rather good.
Do I need to hear another band take on the Phil Spector pop-template? The answer is no. In light of this The Loves sketchy take of the wall of sound does very little to excite. I do like that tune 'Xs and Os' but that is about it, not even dancers doing synchronised dance movers are enough to ignite excitement.
This is The Millipedes last ever gig! This is a sad fact because their surfy, garage rock is a foot-tapping riot. The band may look like unlikely rockers but they pull off classic rock n roll trash and also provide us with some 'sexual harassment as entertainment' - which is a lot more amusing than it sounds. Energy, b-movie horror themed tunes and wild abandon - that was the Millipedes then!
Internet Forever's set is over far too soon! The three-piece stand stage-front drums in the middle, keys and guitar to either sides - they switch instruments and play with care-free abandon. The sound is scuzzy lo-fi guitar, matched with cartoony keyboard alternative-pop and twee-lyrics. They rock, they roll and they even drop in some web 1.0 humour for the technology geeks. For the short set there is no band I like better in the whole world and even after it has finished I like them an awful lot.
2-years ago Shrag were my favourite band of the weekend. Now they have improved to capitalise on the potential they had to become one of the best indie bands in the UK. They are much tighter and comfortable in the live arena, their ease on stage making this seem more like a gathering of friends than a performance. The set is almost entirely fresh consisting largely of new tunes from their forthcoming new album, which shows an increasing ambition from the band. But it is the old numbers like the brilliant 'Mark E Smith' which get the crowd spazzing out.
The incredible Shrag set starts a triumvirate of pure indie-pop quality on the main-stage which acts as the end of Indietracks 2010. Next up Slow Club (who fall into the 'how are they not massive' category of indie bands) enthral with their subtle sounds which are infused with sincerity and charm. The Sheffield duo make one of the loveliest sounds around and are the perfect precursor to the weekends headliners, current indie-pop darlings The Pains of Being Pure At Heart.
With just one album under their belt it is amazing how many of the New York groups songs are instantly recognisable. They have a perfect sound which is incredibly close to the recorded material, and is how indie music should sound - huge, emotive and catchy. With a new album on the way TPOBPAH should, in an ideal world, be elevated to mainstream success.
This is a perfect end to another near perfect weekend of indie-pop.
Note: A special mention needs to be made for Team Indietracks and the volunteers at the Midland Railway Museum who work so hard to make the weekend so enjoyable. A big thank you to them.