Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Ill health – don’t panic, fate’s grim hand has surrendered its grip round my neck – forced plans to attend the Betsy Trotwood to witness the return to the stage after four years of Harvey Williams to be abandoned.

I phoned in my apologies to the man beforehand and he politely accepted them after pointing out that previous comments issued here may have been “unnecessary”. He was right. Sorry, Harv. More interestingly, he did say that he’d be playing two unreleased songs. Coo. I wonder what they were like.

Harvey said that if the reaction was good, he’d get off his arse and play some more. I hope it went down well and that he’ll be gracing the stage again soon.

I’m From Barcelona on Friday in Brixton, though, now there was a gig. A jubilant pop explosion that you think resembles a kindergarten party until songwriter Emanuel Lundgren checks your thoughts with, “This is like a children’s party, only with alcohol!”

Such is the immediacy of this pop riot, hall strewn with outsized confetti and balloons, that the first song, Treehouse, by some distance the worst song on the album - now, I love the album, it’s right up there with Fugu and Absentee in the best releases I’ve grabbed this year, but you’ve got to admit that on record Treehouse is a grade A stinker – sounds great.

Of course, for all the carnival atmosphere and joie de vivre – bands have so much more fun when they’re not, you know, actually playing instruments – there’s a certain knowingness to proceedings. Lundgren confidently predicts, “This place will self-destruct in five seconds,” before counting down 54321 to We’re From Barcelona.

The knowingness is underlined when they finish the set with a version of We’re From Barcelona (was that a vocoder I heard in there?); they know that it’s their best song, the reason why they’re on the brink of something big. Much as I love the album though, I don’t think – and I bet the band share this reservation – it’s a crossover album.

With performances this irresistibly buoyant, they’d have picked up loads of fans on the festival circuit if they’d toured it over the summer; what they really need is a successful band rich enough to take in excess of twenty pop kids on the road as their support act.

The alternative path to success is to slow down the tempo, get some strings and take it seriously. That would be only a temporary success, however. I’m thinking of the Polyphonic Spree, whose orchestral pop allowed rock hacks the licence to invoke any number of 60s greats when what they were really hearing was the less cheerful moments of Scott Walker and Richard Ashcroft’s second album.

Much better keep the upbeat pop dynamics. There was always a horrible sense with Texan Tim DeLaughter and his white-cloaked brethren that they would one day turn up at the MOBOs and firebomb the place to publicise renaming themselves the Specials KKK and new release Jail Nelson Mandela.

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