review archive

Strange Fruit Festival: Schwervon! / Free Loan Investments / Vermont / Thomas Truax
Bush Hall 21 November 2003

Shepherds Bush - worra dump, eh? But lo! Looming up out of the damp, rubbish-strewn, potholded streets is that delightfully velvety venue Bush Hall. And look! thanks to Strange Fruit its crammed full of popmusictunes and swinging kids who’re hip to the beat.
Tripping through the doors clutching vodkatonics we find the engagingly shivery croonings of Thomas Truax are in full flow. He’s Nick Cave x Rich Hall, growling out woozy bluesy tales. There’s madness in them there blue eyes. Thomas has an intriguing set of ingenious home-made Heath Robinson type ‘instruments’. There’s Sister Spinster - a primitive but beautiful drum machine, spinning and clicking out a beat. Then there’s the Hornicator. It’s, um, like the horn bit from an old gramophone (the bit the HMV dog used to look down) with wires and pick ups and stuff. Obviously I know exactly how it works, but I’m not sure you’d be able to understand my technical explanation, so let’s just say Thomas uses it to produce a selection of exotic sounds, looping and buzzing and twining around his songs. ‘Prove It To My Daughter’ has a backing like the wailing of a ghost chorus, or is it just the wind in the eaves?
Hornication ahoy
For his final song, Thomas takes his Hornicator on a trip around the auditorium collecting quavering vocals from audience members to add to the mix. Then he continues on out to startle folks in the bar and upstairs on the balcony as his music stomps and trembles around the room.
Vermont are the reason we’re here. We have to get our Vermont kicks where we can these days since Sabine and Colin have moved to Dresden, so hurrah for this fantastic thrill spilling set. They’re hampered by somewhat dodgy sound for the stampingly splendid ‘Bullfight in Bogna’ which comes out sounding rarver ruff. But then everything settles down into a demented motornik groove and all is ace. Watching guitarist Simon losing the plot, swinging those strings all over the shop causes repressed memories of the Strange Fruit Gummi Bears incident to suddenly flood back. This incident involved a mightily refreshed Simon going wiulld to Coin Op and showering them with ursine confectionery, including delicately placing Gummi Bears on the Coin Op keyboard keys whilst Mr Coin Op was trying to play. How we all laughed as Simon had to be restrained.
A whole lotta shakin’ going on
Not tonight though, ‘cos there’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on. Captain of keyboards, Adey, divides his time between onstage bonkers electronics and fine baby grand tinkling offstage. He adds to the general air of hecticness by dashing wildly between the two instruments several times in the course of a song. New tunes get aired and sound marvy, walking the line between cute and chaotic as Sabine rolls her eyes to the sky and Colin takes a dive. Here’s hoping their new longdistance longplayer won’t be a long time coming.
Out of breath, babbly girl vocals ‘n’ handclaps
Free Loan Investments come with their own wriggling jiggling following of fringed-up polka-dotted Swedish fey kids. It’s all incredibly (look out here comes that word) TWEEEE! What exactly is going on in Sweden? They seem to have a huge jangley/cutie band stockpile and every now and then one of these bands tumbles down from the pile and rolls into our curious British laps. “Oh look” we say, “Out of breath, babbly girl vocals ‘n’ handclaps. And almost illegally JANGLEY guitars. Wrapped up in strawberry-shortcake-sweet two minute bursts of exuberant pop” And we smile indulgently thinking “It’s sooo TalulahGoshBubblegumSplashRosehips with a bit of Chesterfields bunged in” and in our minds eye its still 1987 and we adore this stuff.
Swing-shuffle with a rumble-thump beat
Free Loan Investments (The Freebies? The Loanies? The Vesties??) do the indie swing-shuffle with a rumble-thump beat and have a song called ‘Kick His Balls Out’ Oof! That juxtaposition of the fey and the vicious reminds us of longlost Talulah Gosh-song ‘I Don’t Want To Have To Break Your Face.’ They play a charming spiralling beatpopsong which may be called something like ‘Summer Time High’ or I may have just made that title up, but it fits dunnit? So leaning back against the wall with our vodka and coke (having guzzled the vodkatonics) we concede the floor to the squiggling, twitching Swedes. Somewhere in their midst the monkey-booted ghosts of our past are jumping for joy.
Schwervon! offer us a fine example of how to keep it swinging in the kitchen. On ‘Dinner’ the domestically entwined Nan Tucker and Major Matt Mason USA make singing for their supper both funny and sexy.
‘Let’s make dinner tonight’ / ‘I’ll boil some water’ / ' Let’s make dinner tonight’ / ‘You chop the carrots’ / ‘Sex on the table is not very stable so let’s make dinner tonight.’
With Matt on clanga clanga guitar and Nan on rattleclash drums, Schwervon! show us fifty ways to sing with your lover on their clockwork chiming Velvety sparkling songs. There’s Beat Happening stripped down simplicity and Pixies eerie awkwardness.
Rattleclash drums

Nan has a fantastic voice, kind of Kim Deal and Corin Tucker, cute, but with a fine womanly punch.On ‘American Girl’ she hollers ‘At my very best I can look my worst’, whilst Matt’s voice edges in underneath, ‘You look just fine to me’. In fact she kind of looks like Anya off ‘Buffy’ to me, but that might just be ‘cos it’s on three times a week at the moment and my mind wanders briefly to contemplate an alternate Schwervon! featuring Anya and Xander…hmm, feisty.
‘Holy Cat’ includes driver Alun on drums, and is deliciously mesmeric; ebbing and flowing like Galaxie 500. Then there’s band rallying cry ‘Schwervon!’ Cue hop skip jump guitar,
Matt: ‘Schwerve…’ Nan: ‘On!’ Matt: ‘Schwerve…’ Nan: ‘On!’ Matt: ‘Schwerve…’ Nan: ‘Oooonnnn!!’
It’s energetic and endearing and er, effervescent and eeeeee right lovely. Get yer Schwervon! indeedy.

After this The Lucksmiths couldn’t possibly compete so we go home. Sorry. I know loadsa people swear by their summerpop melodies, but so far they leave me cold. Plus I find that bloke that stands at the front drumming and singing kind of disturbing. Night Night.

[top of page]