The Metro is one of the most inconspicuous venues I have ever been to. Tucked away between a Waterstone’s book store and a small Bistro on London’s Oxford Street, you’d probably never know it was there unless you were looking for it. When I arrive some 15 minutes before the advertised door time, the front door of the building is already open, so I step inside to investigate, only to find a large door, locked up tight.

Back outside, I decide that the best thing I can do is probably just start queuing, so I stand and wait by the door. From this vantage point, I basically see everyone who comes along, and a hell of a lot of them look bloody grumpy. ‘What’s these peoples’ problem?’ I think to myself. ‘They’re about to see some of the most fun bands around!’

And this is true; the line-up for this gig has me more excited than probably any I’ve been to before. Inside the venue, the stage is ready to go with The Retro Spankees' equiptment all set up on stage. This includes an ironing board covered in cuddly toys with a toy keyboard sitting in the middle. I can only laugh when I hear someone ask “what do you think this band are like then?”

The Spankees themselves take to the stage and kick off their set with instrumental ‘Worthing Warriors’, which sounds like it could easily have been the theme tune to a kids' TV show in the 70's, something like an uber-cool version of 'Swap Shop'. As you can imagine, the crowd are immediately won over. The band's wooping and squeaky harmonies are immediately grabbing. Tey sound something like the post-punk fun of Half Man Half Biscuit mixed with the girl-boy-vocal twee-core genius of Bearsuit. Songs like ‘Out Like One’, single ‘My Sonic Driver’ and ‘Saladman’ get everyone having a bit of a groove, and some people get so excited they start heckling, bless ‘em. It seems that whatever moody blues were troubling people outside the venue have been well and truly blown away.

One of the best things about The Retro Spankees (and I mean ‘one of the best things’, there’s a lot of good stuff about them) is the subjects they choose to write songs about. ‘SmartyPants’ is about what you might think if you were an ant, with lyrics saying “I bet you can’t see me cos I am really small, I’m really small, I’m really small”, or the song they close their set with, a dedication to Richard Whiteley with lyrics going “Give me a vowel please – A! Give me a consonant – V!” etc, etc, and even includes the familiar Countdown ‘dibby, dibby, dibbidy-bip – bom!’ in the middle of it. As you can well imagine, I was ecstatic by this point.

After heading straight up to the merch stand to buy the Retro Spankees album (which is excellent) I headed back down to the stage to prepare myself for Bearsuit. I immediately notice that some people in the crowd are now wearing Bearheads, and this makes me very happy. The band play a set of almost entirely new songs, but open with ‘Chargr’ from their album ‘Team Ping-Pong’, which really gets the crowd going well. The new songs all sound fantastic, from the violin-laden new single ‘Steven Fucking Spielberg’ to the gentle indie strum of ‘I thought you said you were blind’. Other stand-outs are ‘Shh Get Out’ and ‘Look a Crow’ (although, in truth, I love every second of it). Because these songs are all new, the band maybe aren’t as tight as they could be, but this really doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and from the crowd’s reaction, I’d say that they don’t care either.

Of course, Bearsuit classics ‘Itsuko got Married’ and ‘Rodent Disco’ get the crowd more excited than the songs they haven’t heard before, and set closer ‘More Soul Than Wigan Disco’ is the perfect end to a fantastically fun gig. This is the first time I’ve ever seen the Bears play live, and they totally lived up to my expectations: bloody brilliant!

After heading once again to the merch stand to get myself a Bearsuit t-shirt (which is also excellent) I try to head back to the stage again to see Help! She Can’t Swim, but by now the area in front of the stage is well and truly packed, so I decide to stay at the top of the stairs to the right of the stage, where my view is not perfect, but pretty good. Help ! She Can's Swim play another really good set; cut from the same cloth as the Spankees and Bearsuit but less the twee and with an extra-injection of Sonic Youth style post-rock. Their set also includes a lot of new songs, but unfortunately I failed to get a set-list from them, so I can’t tell you what these new songs were called – they were damn good though! New single ‘Midnight Garden’ goes down a storm, as do Fashionista Super Dance Troupe tracks ‘Bunty vs Beano’ and ‘I Don’t Need You’.

Guitarist/vocalist Tom Denney is full of energy, bouncing around all over the place and clearly enjoying himself; and he’s not alone, as from my vantage point at the top of the stairs I can see that the crowd is lapping it up, singing along, dancing and grinning like fools.

This was definitely one of the most consistently good gigs I’ve been to in a very long time; every band was absolutely fantastic, and although Help! She Can’t Swim were the headliners according to the posters outside the venue, in my eyes all 3 bands had equal billing.

For me, this gig was an example of the peak of British music; bands mixing new wave, Casio-pop, post-rock and punk together with the wooden spoon of twee to make something which is recognisably British, but also incredibly fresh and new sounding. There is a definite community of bands in Britain, which includes tonight’s three performers along with groups like Misty’s Big Adventure, Gay Against You and past PennyBlackMusic interviewees (and personal favourites) Das Wanderlust that are really shaking up the British music scene. Well, actually no, not really "shaking it up". They’re more sort of sitting outside drinking tea and flicking Smarties at the British music scene’s windows. But they’re there, and they’re doing something interesting and fun, and it would be well worth your while to get yourself to one a gig like this the next time it comes around.


The bottom photo was taken by Bob Stuart and orignally appeared on his website www.underexposed.org.uk











Related Links:




Commenting On: Metro, London, 30/3/2006 - Help ! She Can't Swim, Bearsuit and the








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last