luxembourg / The
Schla La Las / The Swear – Islington Bar Academy 7th September 2004
I’ve been playing
luxembourg’s ‘What The Housewives Don’t Tell You’
incessantly since it sneaked through my letterbox a few weeks ago, but tonight
is the official single launch at the freakishly clean and shiny Islington
‘I’m not dignifying that crappy lager with a name’ Bar Academy.
Last week I thrilled to their performance flung out devil may care style in
the appallingly carpeted work social club of those dastardly Sounds XP chappies.
It was exciting enough to get me rushing back for more five days later.
I initially think the
between bands music has been especially chosen by luxembourg as a kind of
pre-emptive critical strike designed to show off their influences. There’s
Suede and Morrissey, er Dubstar and hmm, Sleeper (I’m thinking, ‘Well,
could be a kitchen-sink lyrics thing’). Then I realise this must be
the venue’s idea of ‘indie’ background music. They’re
playing some kind of ‘Best Of Britpop’ nonsense. At least I hope
they are. I start feeling queasy at the idea of a band flaunting the combined
influences of Echobelly and Skunk Anansie.
The Swear show no tendencies towards either of these bands’ oeuvres, preferring
to plough that currently popular furrow of jerky, scritchy new wave art pop.
Guitarist Andrew does a stiff-legged, wobbly-headed quiver dance, like artpunk
bands of yesteryear. Funny how small movements can summon up an entire past
era. Along with fellow guitarist and singer Tycie, he whips up a sound like
a swarm of bees. They pile through a bundle of itchy, twitchy tunes with a spikey
boy/girl dynamic, with the emphasis on grrrl.
‘Japanese Pop Song’ Tycie hollers in a powerful, resonant voice
whilst Andrew pitches in more lightly. Best of all is ‘High Rise’
(as featured on the first Angular Records Sampler) which is thundery and spindly,
churny and squeaky in all the right places, whipping the backs of your legs
with its twitchy towel of rhythm.
The Schla La Las are ladies that understand the power of a well-placed accessory.
They know that likin’thewayyoulook ’n’ lookin’thewayyoulike
does wonders for your confidence and thus gives you top pop performing superpowers.
Tonight they’re dressed like rockin’ Pink Ladies in matching (always
matching) red shirts and anchor-patterned skirts. The Schla La Las are ladies
that understand the importance of making an entrance, ‘Are you ready…let’s
go!’ they sing on ‘Get Ready’, as Piney and Katrin hand jive
ferociously like rockin’ air hostesses.
They then proceed to blast
through a delicious selection box of rumbling, roughed up melodies. There’s
ace girls’ mag photostory grooviness in one song that goes something
like, ‘I don’t care about your bad boy reputation/ I don’t
care about your secret situation/ I’m the only one who can make you
feel right…baybee come over tonite.’ Another one sung by Vicki
and Delia sounds like a cross between one of Lee Hazlewood’s tall tales
and a Burl Ives children’s song. Then there’s scuzzy garage that’s
filthier than a slick of sump oil, but topped with multiple harmonies sprinkled
on like hundreds and thousands.
The Schla La Las are ladies
that understand that all the best bands have a theme song (e.g. The Banana
Splits, Schwervon!) and wind up their show with their mighty, ‘Schlas
Theme’. Sadly there’s no time for it to segue into The Violent
Femmes’ ‘Add It Up’ like what sometimes happens, because
luxembourg are waiting to play, it would be rude to hog the stage and of course
The Schla La Las are (gum-snappin’, wise-crackin’, hop-rockin',
are all posture and plenty of substance. Singer David is a bit Jarvis, a bit
Morrissey, a bit Brett, but mostly he’s David from luxembourg, perfecting
the art of pulling poses. He does a fantastic one during ‘Close-cropped’,
singing ‘I want your three day old stubble’ (demonstratively holds
up three fingers) ‘Dragged across my face’ (drags aforementioned
three fingers across face). During ‘Relief’ he croons, ‘Are
you aching to get some relief?’ whilst going weak at the knees then falling
onto them. Meanwhile, on keyboards, Alex, enveloped in a furry gorilla-glam
jacket atop a scrawled ‘Fucking Tourist’ t-shirt (sadly not ‘Fucking
Florist’ as certain people misread) has perfected the keyboard player’s
pout of extreme boredom (see also Ron Mael, Neil Codling), breaking cover only
to hammer the keys in moments of high drama. The songs are full of the course
of love never running smooth, smooth boys running rough, coarse boys roughing
up the smooth. This is precision built pop with a nasty glint in its eye courtesy
of Alex’s deranged squealing keyboards and Rob‘s twitching thrusting
guitar throttling antics.
squelching flashboy Hi-NRG romp of ‘Success is Never Enough’ contrasts
with the delicate, swooning ‘Mishandled’, a song that gazes dry-eyed
and sleepless from its tower-block window as David cracks open a fine falsetto.
I find myself cocking an ear to catch the words, smart lines stacked up to create
vignettes, expressing lust and disgust in equal measure. Don’t you love
it when a band really makes you want to hear what they have to say? For encore
‘Making Progress’ with its gleaming chorus and ‘Popcorn’-esque
keyboards, David works his way through its extended narrative section. As he
laconically enunciates through the maelstrom, it’s impossible to make
out this tale of consumerist meltdown, you need to listen to the record to appreciate
that, but it’s glorious watching the band explode their way to the ending.
In a world of shabby, scabby Libertines-lite interlopers, swoon with joy, for
luxembourg are here to wrench you out of the gutter to gaze at the stars in