review archive

The Boyfriends – Betsey Trotwood 21/8/04

‘We’ve got to have/ We plot to have/ For it’s dreary not to have/ That certain thing called The Boyfriends.’ The Noel Coward song keeps running through my brain whenever I happen across The Boyfriends, showing me up for the fop I am. The band, however, have gone for The Ramones’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ as their intro tape. A perfect piece of bubble-gum to introduce their set of ringing, brooding, bruise-eyed, melodic pop moodiness.

The sound bounces all over the bloody show in the Betsey’s sweaty low-ceilinged basement, but it doesn’t matter. The band snap at the heels of the songs, pitching them vigorously across the room, obviously feeling feisty as they’re fresh from a photo-shoot for ‘Boyz’ magazine (‘I’m gonna be a gay icon!’). They rattle through eight pristine tunes, leaving us thrilling in their wake. ‘No Tomorrow’, is familiar from the latest Angular Records sampler, and still the greatest song I never taped off Janice Long in 1983. The fantastically titled, ‘Brave Little Soldiers’ crashes through with bright splashes of brittle sound. ’Once Upon A Time’ is a nosebleed cycle ride to the shops with racing drums and spidery guitar. ‘Hurrah!’ I write in my notebook. Brave Little Soldier
1982 innit? ‘We scheme about/ And dream about/ And we’ve been known to scream about/ That certain thing called The Boyfriends.' The sweat sparkles on singer Martin’s head like sugar on a fruit pastille. No, it really does, that’s what goes through my head as I watch. Another thing that goes through my head is: The Boyfriends look like a band, rather than a disparate bunch of blokes who all happen to be playing the same songs. Even upon the sorry excuse for a stage that the Betsey has provided, Martin has the presence of a man who’s thoroughly at ease with being a focal point and it’s kind of nice to hear someone who can sing well without being flashy.

During the non-singing bits, he calmly folds his arms, gazing into the middle distance, and because he’s six foot three and wearing a snappy white jacket he still looks commanding. Meanwhile on bass, David’s looking like that cool older kid down the village disco circa 1982 - sticky-up hair, skinny white jeans, scrappy tie.Guitarist Richard is the one you don’t usually notice in Vermont (the band not the state) where he’s on bass hidden behind his capering band-mates. With The Boyfriends you get to notice his guitar playing and you get to go, ‘Woo! That’s ace!’ at it. Especially on final song, ‘There Is Always Hope’ where he twists and scratches out noise, hunched over like the mighty William Reid. During this last song Martin departs (the effect slightly spoiled by the fact you can see him sitting in an alcove) leaving the band to scrimmage their way through to the end, leaving a screeching guitar and no encore. An excellent exit, ‘We’re blue without/ Can’t do without/ Our dreams just won’t come true without/ That certain thing called The Boyfriends’

Emerging from Shaky's shadow
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