Live (The Social / Cazals)
On a muggy Monday night when the beer’s served in cardboard cups and the venue’s packed before nightfall, you know you’re in for a treat.
First onto the stage at The Joiner’s were The Social, nonchalantly ambling straight into their Bravery-inspired set with little introduction. Complete with slicked back hair, black jacket, and crisp white shirt, the lead singer looked as though he was on loan from the Mafia for the evening. Casually chewing gum and oozing cool, his mainly monotone vocals were deep, gravelly and somewhat reminiscent of Morrissey.
With marching staccato drums and bouncing guitars, The Social sound like they’re staging their own eighties revival – it’s electro-rock without the synthesizers. Angsty, Razorlight-esque lyrics pertaining to the impersonality of London and unrelenting riffs set to repeated howls of being ‘so tired’ – both embody traits of all that’s popular in the current indie/rock scene. But The Social are too edgy and too slick to risk being consigned to the pigeonhole.
Next up were Cazals, in whose offhand garbled introduction, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were listening to the ‘Gazelles’. Incidentally, the lead singer looked a little like a gazelle, with sharp skinny features softened only by the ubiquitous scarf. Such unnecessary garments in an already sauna-like atmosphere always put me on my guard; so coupled with the guitarist’s bowler hat and the drummer’s undeniably impressive mullet, my pretentious-ometer was firmly switched on.
However, for all their pretty-boy fashion statements, Cazals redeemed themselves magnificently. The music was a veritable riot of syncopated beats and riffs, with funky bass rhythms and refreshingly minimal strumming. Every member of the five-piece from East London appeared to be doing something different, leaving room for the music to breathe and giving ample space to some fantastic guitar work, that not even the tinny drums could undermine.
The music was intelligent, dark and downright filthy in places, perhaps best showcased in ‘Poor Innocent Boys’, complete with catchy pop-pleasing chorus, along with debut single, ‘Beat Me to the Bone’. Still in their early twenties and having played together for less than a year, Cazals have a sound that is fresh, original and swaggeringly confident. As lead singer Phil Cazal paused to sardonically thank the whooping audience for ‘spoiling’ them, I’m inclined to think that we’re the ones being spoilt.
With The Joiner’s buzzing expectantly, not even the lengthy wait for headliners The Rakes could dampen the spirits of the already sweaty crowd. Modelling polo shirts and side partings, the four-piece from London resembled an American take on high school geeks as they clambered aboard the stage. Lulled into a false sense of security by their innocent look, The Rakes wasted no time hurtling into a frantic adrenaline-pumped set, which left you gasping for breath.
Another very contemporary band; the military drums have a Franz Ferdinand edge to them and the guitars are reminiscent of a punkier, grittier Futureheads. Seeming reluctant to experiment with different tempos, the pace is firmly set to frantic throughout the set and there is little let-up between songs for small-talk. The energy with which lead singer, Alan Donohue, pelts through the set list is undeniable, but the relentlessly throbbing guitar build-up fails to climax, leaving the audience balanced on a knife edge of unreleased tension.
Lyrics about the mind-numbing routine of daily life in songs such as ‘Retreat’ are complemented well by The Rake’s staccato rhythms and Donohue’s mechanical, puppet-style dancing. However, the mad race to keep up with the pacey guitars meant clarity was often sacrificed – something Donohue seemed to realise as he mimed emphatically to the words we couldn’t hear. A notable exception was some clipped counting in German – the guttural chant working well with their spikey sound.
In a night characterised by nonchalant frontmen and uber-cool posturing, The Rakes’ carefully crafted frenetic energy left the atmosphere stretched tighter than overworked elastic band. Cold shower, anyone?