Live at The Vine on Thursday, 23rd October 2003
It's been a weird day. October has gone from cold to colder to coldest. Today, the corn exchange and I witnessed Rik Mayall buying a shit t-shirt (emblazoned with "No-one knows I'm a lesbian" or a slogan of the same ilk) from my mate's shop. It rained, off and on (and off). The unpleasant day seems to be grinding to an equally cold and unpleasant end. Still, the opportunity to go see some bands in town is a much appreciated intermission from the local brat kids chucking fireworks at my house and our dog. Bring on the Vine.
Opening act No Problem Disko are simply a bunch of schoolgirls in a band. They occasionally sound reminiscent of the mighty Sonic Youth, which is good, even if this is a diapered and cuddled baby incarnation. However, these guys have no songs and not much musicality, which is bad. The timid and frankly woeful singer fails to convey any message, melody or character. Maybe she'll grow into it in time. I don't know. I get the feeling these girls aren't ready to be a band yet.
The next band is the reason I'm here. They're from London and they started touring the whole of the UK yesterday, in Glasgow. They have a single out called "Massive Crush", on Mother Tongue records. I heard it on the radio a few weeks ago and became ensnared. They're heading off to Amsterdam to play with The Darkness before long. They are The Barbs, and in my humble opinion, their front-man Tim looks quite a bit like a young Bob Geldof.
The Barbs are armed to the teeth with wit and riffs, every pounding song like a series of mini explosions. They shake and kick their way through a lightning set, throwing out hook after brilliant hook. The two singers, Tim and Amy, holler obscure narratives at each other, puerile but somehow embodying the flipside of juvenile. The chorus' are monstrous - catchy as fuck. The Barbs latch onto some primal love of basic driving grooves and bark it back out in the shape of 3 minute aggro-pop pelvic thrusts. Un-thwartable rocking; playful, abrasive and supreme. The night is theirs, and I think they stole my heart. or my hearing at least.
I gave The Barbs some obligatory congratulations after their incredible set. Amy said "thanks" and told me to email her. Maybe it's a bit sexist and
gross, but I find girls in bands so inexplicably cool. I can offer no justification. Anyway, she touched my leg - I'm not sure whether she meant to, but she definitely touched it. I think she fell in love with me. but I'm not sure. Talk about mixed signals. Women. Hmph.
The Tennessee Traincrash are a cake I don't really want to bake - my mind is split as to whether I should voice my true feelings about them. Personally, I appreciate them about as much as having uninvited willies thrust in my ears; ghastly. One of many disasters that sat cackling in the wings as it became socially acceptable to have never picked up an instrument before getting signed and famous.
Ok, there is a chance that I just don't "get it". Let's dwell on this; I must reluctantly admit that the days when irony was for the elite or intelligible are gone and dead. A Pandora's Box of fashion re-releases, novelty film re-makes and musical re-hashes has been prized open. Irony is mainstream, and accessible to every trendy high street spaz, regardless of intellect. As a result, musically inept dirge-merchants like the Tennessee Traincrash can bypass any quality nets/crap filters/whatever to be hailed as the zeitgeist - or worse, musically valuable. I don't buy it. Is irritating feedback and poorly executed non-music IN? I feel a bit alien. My brain begins to corrupt and ache. I feel unqualified to stay to the end. I have to leave (proudly displaying my The Barbs badge).