Live at Joseph's Well on Wednesday, 31st January 2001
After such a packed night on Tuesday, it was a bump back down to Earth tonight with a much smaller crowd who'd come to see four very different bands, none of which I'd seen before, so I looked forward to each one.
Mutiny played first, and instantly made me think of Courtney Love. Singer Miranda looks nothing like the professional widow, but vocally sounds a lot like her. They mix together ska, punk and metal influences to create a fairly generic sound, but with a bit of work on songwriting and developing their own sound, they could be really good. Miranda has a strong voice, but occasionally the melodies are predictable and she wavers a little on the higher notes. The bassist is good and plays a mean slap, but the 14-year-old drummer Lewis was excellent and in time will be one of the best drummers in Leeds - he just needs to tighten up and play to the song more. Oh yeah, the songs: they flit effortlessly from ska to punk to grunge to metal which is really good, and have the odd catchy chorus here and there, but nothing that really grabs the audience. They look bored on stage and need to look like they're enjoying themselves more, because a bored band equals a bored crowd. That's not to say Mutiny are boring: they're not, but they need to do a lot of work. In a couple of years, with a boost of confidence, an injection of energy and some honing of the songwriting, Mutiny could be really good.
Up next were Bradford three-piece Clone. Tight as the bass player's kecks, Clone rocked in a power-pop/rock type way. Obvious influences would be The Jam or Green Day, but they had a fairly original sound, nothing particularly new but the sort of music that will always be popular with a certain audience. Each song was a catchy three-minute classic with really tight harmonies sung by identical twin brothers Steve and James, backed up with tight impressive drumming. At first Clone were dull to watch on stage - the music was energetic but the threesome looked a bit bored. As the set wore on however, they became more into it and rocking out a bit. The excellent singer/bass player had JJ Burnel's stage moves and playing technique and a strong, American-sounding voice belting out catchy choruses - the one that really sticks out now is the "Come on, come on, come on" song, which was probably their stand-out song. They finished with the ballad "Cracking Me Up", which was mistake as it was probably their weakest song. It was okay, just nothing special. Clone are worth seeing if you like poppy punky sorta stuff but could do with refining their catalogue - they did a song called "Down to Earth" which the singer introduced by saying "this is a cheesy song that we can't wait to dump" - so why play it at all? Overall I think Clone have potential but their music isn't diverse enough or grabbing enough to achieve any major success yet.
Four-piece Bradfordians Nursery took to the stage next and didn't quite live up to my expectations. Having been told that they'd played with two signed bands in Bradford and blown both off the stage, I was looking forward to their set. They were good but not as fantastic as they'd been built up to be. They've got a very Smithsy sound, and consequently sound a bit like various bands who've been accused of ripping off the Smiths over the years, like Marion, Suede, Gene or the House of Love. The singer has a strong voice and treated the crowd to some Jarvis-esque foppery here and there, but only needed a hearing aid and a bunch of daffs to become Morrissey. Actually that's unfair, because his vocal lines were often more interesting than Mozzer's, and he occasionally sounded a little like Paul Draper of Mansun. In fact some of their music was reminiscent of later Mansun. Catchy choruses fused with tasteful guitar lines, soaring vocals and an impressive rhythm section created a good sound, and the songs themselves were subtle yet powerful. The songs are a mixture of crescendos and diminuendos that sometimes go places but now and then just don't really go anywhere. Their single, 8PM, was okay but I really thought it was their weakest song. Shortbread, however, was magic: anthemic with a towering chorus and catchy melody. Nursery are a really good band who again need to work on developing their own sound a little more but when they have, could be fantastic.
Headliners for the night were goad. They melded a fusion of different influences, from Seventies punk to Nineties pop. At times it was like watching Siouxsie Sioux fronting the Housemartins, but this worked in a way. Licia the frontwoman commands the stage with a confident and assured performance, and vocally resembles a cross between Kate Bush, Sharleen Spiteri and Beki Bondage. The rest of the band play tightly, with some great lines from the bass player and good harmonising from the guitarist. Songwise goad play pop music with energetic vocals: nothing particularly new or outstanding but nothing bad either. All the songs were okay but they lacked the killer singles that would make them their million. What's It To You was a good song with country-tinged verses and a chorus that sounded a bit like the Smokie 'classic' Living Next Door To Alice: that's two bands I've seen recently who have a song that sounds like that. Stuck In A Rut sounds suspiciously like Clash City Rockers or Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, but otherwise there were no obvious rip-offs. Closing the night with a catchy number with some nice harmonies and some emotional, heart-wrenching vocals, goad impressed the 15 or 16 people who'd stayed to watch them but need better songs if they're going to compete in the charts. There was nothing wrong with goad, just nothing really right with them either. Everything was just fairly right. Hmm.
I left with a sense that all of the bands tonight could be so much better. They were all okay but, like I said about goad, they all need some of those songs that send the hairs up on the back of your neck, or make you wanna jump and dance round the room like a loon, or laugh and smile or cry. As it was, each song made me think, that was okay (with the exception of a couple by Nursery and one or two by Clone). It all seemed a bit too conservative tonight - I wanna see the band who's prepared to rip the throat out of the whole Coldplay/Travis type movement and stick it to the wall in Joe's Well's dressing room. At the moment, it's threatening to be a couple of Leeds bands who have the potential, who I won't name cos I'll probably be wrong. But let's have it. A bit more vitriol, a touch of bile and a sprinkling of good old-fashioned ENERGY (from ALL the band members, not just singers) and someone will do it and we can say goodbye to the whole conservatism that surrounds rock 'n' pop these days.