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Fonda 500 / Heist Camden Monarch 7th July 2001

It's Casino Royale night at the Monarch and Heist were made for such evenings of down-at-heel glamour. Coming on as if they're playing some moth-eaten velvet seated, dusty floored dance hall, the drummer and singer/guitarist are in white shirts and dark suits flanked by two multi-instrumentalist girls in charity shop ball gowns of glittering gold and purple lamé.

Heist in full flow
This is music to tango to, noir-ish narratives sung against lovingly built up sound. Purple lamé girl plays keyboards and spiralling clarinet (clarinets: the melodica for people who can read music) with added theremin for extra wooble in places. Gold lamé girl rummages through her selection of instruments to produce a tiny bell to ting at the end of one song - such attention to detail. On others she produces a glockenspiel, then a cornet and hurrah! that staple of school orchestras, the triangle. Taped sounds of timpani and vibraphone mix with the drums played with brushes (niice). Sadly, the glitter ball dangling in front of the stage doesn't spin, that would have been perfect.

After such melancholy, Fonda 500 are a rude awakening. Seeing them the first time, fourth band on during a long Strange Fruit night at the Spitz was a thrilling shock to the system. We stopped slouching against the wall as a twinkle came to our eyes and our toes.

Tonight, as ever, the focal point of the band is singer, Simon, a large man wearing what looks like a purple striped tea-cosy with pom-pom ears. His keyboards rest atop a box with the black silhouette of a bear on the front. A switch is flicked and the whole thing lights up a glowing neon white like the inside of a fridge.

Su Su Su Super Simon

There's a bit of faffing about with misbehaving keyboards, then into a song that goes (and is possibly called) 'Digital Spacepop Rock The World'. It's joyous and exhilarating and a brilliant manifesto for the band. Even more brilliantly, the lyrics degenerate into lines from Duran Duran's 'The Reflex'.

The next song is a meandering take on Pulp's 'Babies', ending abruptly with a gruff, 'Right, thanks'. 'Rollerdisco' is kind of instrumental until Simon comes in with some astonishing squealy human theremin noises. He gets out the sort of yellow plastic mini-tambourine you'd expect to see in a child's playpen and shakes it furiously. The keyboards (with the notes carefully written on each key) are in for a slapping as he plays them, nearly all keys at once, with his palms and then sort of karate chops at them. Such antics (wooly hat et al) all happen with a dignified matter of factness that's somewhat at odds with the rest of the band's beaming amusement. Bod, cool girl in a denim skirt, on bass guffawing away especially, while the guitarist looks like a cartoon character in his Scooby Doo t-shirt and enormous swinging fringe.
A new song is announced, we're told it is fifty seconds long. It's great. Then we get the fantastic singalong single, 'Super Chimpanzee' which starts 'Su Su Su Super Chimpanzee, Su Su Su Super Chimpanzee'. It's a cheery jumpalong anthem in the mould of (Su Su Su) Super Furry Animals at their fizzy mad poppermost.

Then there's a song, possibly 'Orson' which starts with a nursery rhyme/fairground five note tune, goes all heavy rocking shouty, then schizophrenically drops into lullaby 'do do do aahs' against squoobly noises before ending on a display of Simon's human beatbox skills.

Proceedings come to a close in a demented dronerocking way with the keyboards being madly rocked back and forth on Simon's head. It's all over too quickly, but time has caught up with us. As members of the audience plead for more songs, the purple wooly pom-pom hat is thrown down with the suggestion, 'Buy our album'. The answer comes back, 'I have and it's shite!' It's no good turning on the charm like that though, 'cos when the hat comes off it really is the end. digital spacepop rock the world
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