Live at Brudenell Social Club on Sunday, 12th June 2011
I know there are a lot of cool families out there whose kids were influenced by their parents' love of great music but in my eyes whatever my dad liked was spawned by the devil himself. He has an unnatural love for country and western, twangy guitars, songs of lonesomeness and pines and horses and sunsets and horizons, messy heartbreaks and the love of a good woman etc... But it goes without saying I really hate country and western. My dad also loved a Radio Two programme called Sing Something Simple in which crooners did their very best to ruin our Sunday dinner every weekend. I detested that programme more than any other. And of course my dad loves Elvis Presley and would warble away like him in the bathroom while he shaved, no doubt pouting in front of the mirror with a hairbrush in hand for a microphone. The King was not in my collection.
What we have here in the shape of cutely named siblings Kitty, Daisy & Lewis is the perfect family. Not only do they all agree on what represents good music, which is rock and roll, swing, boogie woogie, Hawaiian and the occasional twist of ska/Jamaican dance hall, but they actually bring along their parents as band members. It probably helps that mum was the drummer from female post-punk band The Raincoats, so loved by the overrated Kurt Cobain, and engineer dad has his own studio and vinyl press - they were selling new album Smoking in Heaven as a 78rpm on the merch desk and the band record their songs using vintage equipment on analogue tape - but here is the absolute antithesis of my own family life. The Simpsons without the dysfunctionality - although please don't tell their parents, but I think they're ALL smoking.
When I first heard them on Mark Radcliffe's show, it is quite possible Kitty was 12 years old and the rest weren't much older. Then it was impossible to dislike them because they were infectiously lovable kids - extremely talented - but still kids. Now, six years later and playing in Leeds for the first time, they're adults but the song kind of remains the same. Retro is still retro no matter how you dress it up and if that's your bag, fine.
As much as I wanted to be won over by Lewis' immaculately lacquered hair and pin-striped suit, complemented by K and D's floral dresses and flowing tresses you just feel that paying such close attention to 1950s detail is just one slap of bryl cream on your barnet too far. Admittedly they've moved on from the covers of their eponymous 2008 debut and are knocking out their own tunes but these north Londoners occupy the ground already taken by the likes of Imelda May and Amy Winehouse.
They're impossible to dislike, but possibly hard to love. Mum (Ingrid Weiss) actually looked a bit bored on double bass but their homely looking dad (Daddy Grazz - a sassier version of Graeme) kept things ticking along as rhythm guitarist, while the kids chopped and changed between Hammond, drums and guitar. Daisy (or is it Kitty?) is hypnotically intense and has a bouncy approach to drums, while Kitty (or is it Daisy?) probably has the edge over her sister when it comes to vocals - but neither are spectacular.
The band had a few problems at first and it took until the third track - Don't Make A Fool Out Of Me - for one of the roadies to sort out an errant snare. Polly Put The Kettle on and Going Up The Country certainly hit the mark and the night moved in the right direction with the introduction of Jamaican trumpeter Eddie 'Tan Tan' Thornton on I'm So Sorry, Baby Hold Me Tight and The Specials-like 'Tomorrow' which lifted us out of the mundane.
They closed with Say You'll Be Mine as Lewis worked his way through introducing the band until he ground the set to a halt with a few notes from a guitar containing more pick-ups than a truckers' convention. It's quite possible this wasn't his usual guitar as the baggage handler at Leeds/Bradford airport had broken his usual one. "If you know him go and kick his arse," Lewis chips in. The first encore is the ill-advised and lengthy What Quid? which starts off like a wah-wah version of T-Rex's Jeepster before the needle gets stuck for a few minutes.
Wisely they come back for one more - the boogie woogie number Buggin' Blues which involves a bit of improv betwen Lewis and Kitty, a few 'yeah, yeah, yeahs' from Thornton and that does the trick in sending most of the crowd home happy. They may have been given a bit more kudos by signing to Rob Da Bank's Sunday Best label but I can't help feeling we've just seen a decent summer ball band and not much else.