It is nice to be right. Watching Kristof Hajos, the Hungarian, ex-friar and lead singer of the Unbending Trees, I kept thinking to myself that he reminded me of Jarvis Cocker. The mannerisms, hand movements, the sustained stares into the audience, everything that I spent much of the 90's watching. Must be my imagination, thought I.

Then reading an interview with him the next day – who is his hero? Liam Gallagher? Robbie? No, it turned out that, during a genuinely tortured childhood and adolescence, as he struggled with his sexuality in a deeply conservative country now free from Communism, his one solace was our Jarvis’ confessions of repressed northern life.

Not that the Unbending Trees are any kind of middle-European Pulp. After scarpering from the monastery, Hajos began to write songs to the music of Balazs Havasi, a feted pianist in Hungary who later joined him to form the band.

Live, Hajos is backed by Havasi on piano along with a bass player and drummer. This is an odd combination, which works, but would work equally well with just the piano. Hajos is an assured, though not a flamboyant performer. His Cockerisms are minimal and restrained. But then his songs are painfully personal; the title of their album, 'Chemically Happy (Is the new sad)'gives a slight idea that this is not Europop.

Apart from a couple of exceptions, all were sung in English as they were recorded on the album. It has been released by British label, Strange Feeling, which is run by Everything But the Girl’s Ben Watt. I suspect a good many of the crowd had an inkling that Tracey Thorn, Everything But the Girl’s other half, was going to reprise 'Overture', her duet with Hajos. She was, he told us, ill and unable to perform. This prompted a gradual thinning of the audience, nearly embarrassingly so. Their loss, as Unbending Trees gave an impassioned, intense performance, with Hajos a delicately demonstrative focus.













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Commenting On: Luminaire, London, 4/12/2008 - Unbending Trees








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