Posted by Warren Barner.
Reviewed on 25th February 2012.
Live at Brudenell Social Club on Thursday, 23rd February 2012
'Sonic theatre' is a term coined by bassist Rory Gibson to describe the music of Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny and you can see where he's coming from.
The theatrical part is obvious as Beth and the boys creep onto the stage. She's heavily made-up, dressed in kimono and leg-ins, a combination of geisha and Tippi Hedren, while two of the band members are pure Clockwork Orange.
The sonic part is probably harder to define but this is a band that doesn't need any visual tricks to get you onside. Pinning the ridiculously talented BJH down is a fruitless task; folk, pop, country, oompah, opera and music hall are all in this mesmerising mix wrapped in the sometimes angelic and then deeply resonant voice of this cheeky Newcastle lass who carries off seriousness and silliness perfectly.
In between songs BJH is fun and totally at ease with the Brudenell crowd as she introduces us to Helen, the resident dancer, tells us a forgettable fact about lego and exchanges banter with some of the lads who "don't want her to go to America", a reference to her determination to move to California at some point soon. "Well, why doesn't everyone just leave their jobs and move to America?," she says. Good point, but it's easier for us if you stayed.
The band kickstart the night with love song Atlas followed by the new punchier version of the Clannad-like Nightswimmer which they were supposed to play the last time they were at the Brudenell two years ago supporting Stornoway but ran out time. Although the original is hauntingly pure, live the drummer Dav Shiel gives it a skiffly edginess which tears the song away from its dreamy origins.
Lilliput, one of the gems from their debut album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose which for various obscure reasons took two years to be released, is magically delivered. Your Holes, the B-side to Lilliput, or as BJH calls it, "the backside", is one of the weaker songs but the harmonies between all five members at the climax is a joy.
The 1950s girl group sound of 'My honeycomb' makes way for the eerie and unusual 'Humble Digs' where Ed Blazey swaps his guitar for banjo, but the highlight is the majestic Dodecahedron, which is perfect for Beth's stunning voice as it rises and falls in time with Blazey's red trumpet.
Confessions follow as Beth reveals all five of them have hoof tattoos before they break into Shampoo - a song which contains the immortal line "looks like cum, smells like flowers, I use shampoo in the shower".
We could be in a German bierkeller on I Will Return which has a country twist too, before the band deliver a fantastic version of Sweet Tooth Bird. If the night was already slightly off kilter it slips off the radar as Birmingham support band Goodnight Lenin come on to 'help out' on Like a Prayer which is a bit too karaoke/drunken wedding do for my taste but it seems to go down pretty well. Oh, and the black baby doll that had been sitting on one of the amps finally gets used. Don't ask.
Off the band go, but it's just the one encore as they knock out the thrashy and riotous 'Prick', aka the 'Fuck Off' song, once again accompanied by their bemused Brummy chums. But, that's her, angel and devil incarnate. The band have galloped through a 13-song set leaving us wanting a bit more but we have been left in no doubt that Beth and the Hooves are very special thoroughbreds. .