review archive

Love Is All / Bricolage / X-Wife – Hugos Speaker Palace, 25th February 2006

The last time we saw Love Is All it was 2002, we were Upstairs At The Garage and it was a (late lamented) Strange Fruit night. A few folks gathered to watch this band that had come to us via the remnants of Girlfriendo. A cute little Swedish elf-girl squidged into a buttoned-up velvet jacket hopped about the stage singing tantrum pop and plinking on a handy keyboard. Accompanying her was a suavester moustachioed bloke chopping and changing keyboardy noises and guitar, alongside bass and drums men and ulp! a squonky saxaphone. It was lickety-splickety jerky quirky smile pop.

So now it’s 2006 and we’re stalking the murky back doubles of Hackney, sidling past railway arches in which ‘late-night mechanics’ and big hairy dogs lurk. We’re looking for Hugo’s Speaker Palace. We can’t find Hugo’s Speaker Palace. Nobody else can either, and, like a human snowball of ‘fun-seekers’ we gather up more and more lost souls as we trundle up and down the street. One of the ‘fun-seekers’ recognises us. Oh it’s Joe from The Violets, hello Joe! Eventually, we’re pointed in the direction of a darkened doorway which is pretty much invisible to the naked eye and we all cluster up the stairs to meet our doom…

Turns out we’re in an ‘atmospheric’ olde warehouse space (one that hasn’t been ‘developed’ into a ‘luxury loft-style apartment’). The ceiling is draped with parachute material, the stage is built out of pool tables (you can see the balls lined up inside) and mysterious machinery has been shunted to the sides of the room. What the hell goes on in here during the day? Brrrr.

Let’s not think about that, best get a beer and check out X-Wife, who we learn are from Portugal and are three blokes kicking up a growling, pulsing electric suicide racket. One of them stands on the raised back section of the stage behind a twiddly Korg keyboard thing, looking like an electro vicar behind a techno lecturn. Meanwhile a skinny man in a leather jacket delivers guitar scrawlings and vocals whilst beside him the bass player does a pretty good Jason Pierce impression. Sadly at the end of the set this effect is lost when he removes his heavy black shades to become a bespectacled geekboy. So, sometimes X-Wife sound a bit like Clinic, creating a dementedly propulsive rhythm and driving it wrecklessly through the disco, which is no bad thing. Best song is the one where the Jason-bloke gets to robotically bark ‘X-Wife taking control’ through a vocoder thing, like a satanic Metal Mickey for electroclash kids. Unfortunately, after this the band kind of outstay their welcome and go on a bit, as wives tend to do. Ha ha, take my mother-in-law etc. Jason Pierce guests on bass - or does he..?
Shall we be Bourgie Bourgie next? Bricolage have been studying their Big Book of Postcard Records and learning all about how to party like it’s 1982. You can marvel at their authentically half-mast trousers, nod approvingly at their jumble-sale jumpers, swoon at the voluminously luxuriant quiff on display. Then go, “I know this is a total rip-off of Josef K and Orange Juice, not to mention riding in on Franz Ferdinand’s appropriation of same, but I like those bands and it sounds so nice and scratchily jangly, and they look so 80s indie retro scruffy, it’s like being in the olden days again. Can’t we keep them? Oh please? Look at their big Scottish eyes.” And you get on with enjoying it all way too much when maybe you should be thinking, “Kids of today! Make up your own kind of music and stop stealing stuff from old people, why doncher?” The guitarist even kinda looks like Lloyd Cole - can’t you even get your own face??
Bricolage play Josef K via the June Brides, jumpy rhythms and skeletal guitar jangling and it’s all rather marvy. My fave has got to be the swooning spangle-fest that is ‘Footsteps’, oh man, not only is it all the bands mentioned so far (especially OJ’s ‘Felicity’), it’s also ‘Where Do I Stand’ by The Incredible Blondes, a top Kitten fave for many a long year now. Other songs are more Franz Ferdinand, punchy and smart, snapping to a hip bass backbone, pfft, that’s for the kids, it’s the frenetic jangling and cardigans I’m here for.
It’s gone midnight and Jon Slade (looking a whole lot more animated than he ever does with Comet Gain) is having his go on the decks when Love Is All appear for their first (and only) London performance in two years. They start off sleepily with the fuzzily heart-warming ‘Felt Tip’, and then there’s ‘Talk Talk Talk Talk’ and this sudden blast of energy and noise whirls out across the whole room and probably a large section of grimy old Hackney too. Once it’s been released, there’s no way this genie of delirium is going back into the bottle, even when the set breaks in half thanks to dodgy equipment and we have to wait for running repairs to happen. The audience is a wriggling mass of cheerfully stomping girls whipped into a frantic hoodoo two-step by the righteously chaotic music Love Is All produce. The saxophone squawks and honks filthily, forging a frenzied trail down which the crowd gleefully follows. Think an X-Ray Spex or Kleenex demented drone of sheer abandon rather than er, ‘Baker Street’. The diminutive Josephine hurls her voice across the top of everything, managing to sound both vulnerable and defiant, a mouthpiece for all the indie-fabulous dressed up gig-girls here.
Love Is All aren’t the band I remember. They sound less cutesy, more driven, furious, essential. Also I’m wondering where the suave moustachioed guitarist went to until it’s pointed out to me that he didn’t go anywhere, apart from the land of the dishevelled, and he’s actually there, scribbling out desperado sounds on his guitar right in front of me, it’s just the hair’s grown on his head and gone from under his nose.
Bricolage drummer - the man who says... You don’t even need to hear ‘Spinning & Scratching’ for the song to sum up the band perfectly, careening, jerking and twisting with a sublime soaring chorus. ‘Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up’ builds on stark sing-song verses into an anthemic, chant-along beast, rocketing along on pummelling guitar and clamouring saxophone to an ecstatically shouted conclusion. The band end the nine song set with ‘New Beginnings’, and the audience bays for more. It’s been helter-skelter nose-bleed pop fun but that’s all for Love Is All, there’s no more left to give.
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