BMX Bandits /
Eugene Kelly / The Starlets – Bush Hall 4th October 2003
Ooh, state of this place!
Very swish I’m sure. Bush Hall has got chandeliers! And a red carpet!
And plasterwork creeping in ornate curlicues round the walls. And not-that-good-but-they’re-blacknwhite-so-it-must-be-art
photos of musical instruments taken in blown-up close-up! Best of all there
are chairs. Feeling a bit of a sickly Kitten and enfeebled by the trek to
West London, I’m mightily grateful for the opportunity to have a bit
of a sit-down.
The Starlets should be
grateful too, ‘cos although it brings a somewhat incongruous rarefied
hush to proceedings, arranging the audience in seated rows as if they’re
about to witness something magnificent makes them shut up and listen. Cannily,
the band starts off with a Go Betweens cover, planting the seeds for an evening
of lovingly crafted pop.
been meaning to tell you about The Starlets for
aages. About how they reference early ‘80s whiteboy soul a la Orange Juice
and the ear-caressing pitch-perfect pop of Prefab Sprout. About singer Biff’s
sweetheart vocals and penchant for rocking the 80’s cuteboy look with
flat-top, t-shirt, ripped turned up jeans and brothel creepers. About their
first album ‘Surely Tomorrow You’ll Feel Blue’ with it’s
glimmering melancholy melodies like ‘Rocking In A Shy Way’ and ‘We’ll
Go Driving’. About how a bunch of blokes from Glasgow have shone up a
glittering bucketload of fuzzy-guitared pop gems with strings and horns and
plush surrounds of Bush Hall allow the sound to shine, so the violin gets to
do its stringy shimmy and the brass glows warmly like freshly baked bread. Hang
on, that trumpet man looks familiar. He was in Camera Obscura last week! Scottish
bands and the tangled webs they weave eh?
Last night was the launch of new
Starlets album, ‘Further Into Night Forever’ so they’re
feeling a little tender and start off at the gentler end of their repertoire
with songs, like ‘All To Make You Feel Brand New’ that demand
to be described as ‘swooning’. Later, hangover receding, Biff
throws off his guitar to shimmy about gleefully to the fizzpop of ‘I’ll
See You Sometime’ segueing into ‘Hypercool’ with it’s
oddly ‘Making Plans For Nigel’-esque riff. By now, we’re
all huddled round The Starlets warming our hands on their chiming songs of
loneliness and dislocation. Its mightily cheering on an autumn night, especially
when closer ‘Firestorm’ builds a campfire in our hearts, shining
like a lamp glimpsed through dusk windows.
been in The Vaselines, Captain America/Eugenius, BMX Bandits etcetc (told you
it was a tangled web) Eugene Kelly tells us he’s now trying out for the
position of new Man in Black. He’s got the guitar and the harmonica in
place, but no way is he going to cut it if he keeps complaining about how hot
the black shirt is. Never mind, he spins out some mighty fine tunes anyhow,
like ace swingalong ‘You’re Having My Sex’. There are of course
perennial faves ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam’ (the
bloke next to me cleverly mouths the words, he looks like an arse) and ‘Molly’s
Lips’ (apparently written about a woman who used to be on telly after
the news and before ‘Crossroads’???)
busking solo like this can get tedious after a coupla songs, but Eugene is in
excellent voice and the tunes are charmingly earbending. Between songs we get
some curmudgeonly banter, ‘So who won Fame Academy then?’ Silence
‘C’mon someone must have watched it, don’t all try and pretend
you’re too cool, you’re at a BMX Bandits concert fer fucks sake!’
We’re told the last song is about when you have a great record or book
shop near to where you live and a terrible coffee company comes and takes it
over. The chorus goes, ’Destroy Starbucks today.’ Too bloody right.
Why does their coffee taste of dishwater and not, for instance, coffee? And
why does it have four inches of bubble-bath on top?
last year’s ripsnorting return to the popkid fray, BMX Bandits have decided
to hang around and release a new album, ‘Down At The Hop’, and tonight
they walk amongst us again with their delirious, sparkling poptunes and the
delirious, sparkling Duglas. Opening up their big ole hamper of Glasgow Beat
which is filled with a heaping helping of songs from supernew LP ‘Down
At The Hop’, BMX Bandits thrill our wildly beating little indie hearts.
There is the chiming chugalong of ‘Back in Your Arms’ and the lilting
AM radio splendour of ‘Love At The Hop’. ‘Little Kitty’
gets its live debut and promptly falls apart after 3 bars, when it gets going
again it’s oddly reminiscent of ‘Kids In America’. Okay the
bits that go ‘Miaow! Miaow! Miaow!’ (ahh true poetry) aren’t.
are cock-ups on the vocals front again for plinky Carpenters haze ‘Death
and Destruction’ with Duglas ‘Oh I forgot the first line but I remember
it now’ grinding to a halt a couple of times in his own inimitably charming
way.‘I’m In Such
Great Shape’s crunchy boogie conjures up chilling memories of Kitten school-days
and having to do some kind of primary school version of aerobics to that terrible
old song ‘Blue Jeans On’ (‘When I wake up’ (stretch
arms). ‘In the morning light’ (wave arms). ‘I put on my jeans’
(put on imaginary jeans). ‘And I feel alright’ (feel humiliated,
wonder when it’s lunchtime)). Brrrr.
Road of Love Is Paved With Banana Skins’ is frantic-fantastic and has
a guitarry bit exactly like JAMC’s ‘Everything’s Alright When
You’re Down’ only its obviously endearingly Banditsy and not all
black-clad and scowly and features piping keyboards and added kazoo action.
As Duglas says, ‘The kazoo makes a welcome return to rock ‘n’
roll’. Indeed it does, not least during encore ‘E102’ (yay!
Kitten’s 1986 self does cartwheels and buys an icecream) when Duglas throws
a handful of kazoos out for audience participation. Those without kazoos join
in the ‘do, do do do do do dos’ anyway, it’s a wonderous sound
oldster tunes include a lollopingly lovely ‘Serious Drugs complete with
a loungey laid back guitar solo from Gabriel and his terrifying headless geetar;
‘Little Hands’, (Duglas says it was rechristened by Norman Blake,
‘Little Hans’, thus becoming a song about a small German); ‘Green
Grow The Rushes’ (‘This song’s even older than ‘Molly’s
Lips’’) and ‘Disco Girl’. Before the latter, Duglas
embarks on a sensational piece of entertainment derring-do, just like what U2
did when they phoned folks up Live! Onstage! This involves trying to phone the
aforementioned Scotpop superstar Mr Blake. At home! In Scotland! He’s
well, there’s always a scurrilously gorgeous version of Beat Happening’s
‘Cast A Shadow’ to marvel at whilst hoping that you’ll be
the one to take home Duglas’s polo which he has taken out of his very
own mouth ‘Someone might like to get that later’. Final encore is
old B-side of ‘Come Clean’ and cover of the Harpers Bizarre version
of a Jim Pepper adaptation of an old native American folk song (got that?) ‘Witchi
Tai To’. Eugene comes back on (in stripy top having ditched the Man in
Black caper already) to add extra trembling guitar strings and it’s all