Live (Butterfly Bangs / The DeBretts)
What to make of Butterfly Bangs? On record they sound agile, delicate, hinting at Bloc Party’s tunefulness. In performance, they just sound as if they like the Strokes, to the point of slavish imitation. Is it actually the same band? Maybe there was a mix-up and the guys who did the recordings are playing tribute night at the Dog and Duck, where even now they are being bottled by irate punters expecting the Diff’rent Strokes.
It’s cool for a while, as the set is front-loaded with their best material, but by the time they start on a sweet doo-woppy ballad, only to pause and then – wuntoofreefour! – launch into yet another bastard-son-of-Last-Nite chugalug, it’s exasperating. There’s promise here, but please, more variety.
Mind you, they could have been the Strokes and still had trouble matching what comes next as The DeBretts are one serious prospect. World, meet Ms Vonnie DeBrett, a vision of feather masks, high kicks and attitude. Think Tyson as ballerina, a violent, pirouetting spirit who at any moment might tear the roof off and show us the stars.
There’s a building tension here, something elemental that’s too big for a small space. Those who bandy influences talk of Blondie (the hooks are that good, the band is that tight) and Siouxsie. Myself, I’m put in mind of Patti Smith as Vonnie stalks the stage and indeed the audience, invading their space and staring them out. She riffs on lines and ideas, and punky soundbites like ‘Is It Me or Is It You’ are stretched into epics. When she tells the happily terrorised front row ‘there’s no need to be afraid of me’, it’s the most charming lie imaginable. I’m writing this from memory, by the way. I didn’t dare get my notebook out during the gig She would have eaten it.
Headliners are the Bishops. You will look, you will stare, for these boys present quite a sight and sound. Malcolm McLaren himself might have dreamt them up in a mad half hour between inventing Bow Wow Wow and the Bootzilla Orchestra. ‘Hmmm, what the world needs is. twins. IDENTICAL twins! Think Herman’s Hermits playing twangabillysurfbeat garage with deep sincerity and great harmonies. Eh, Viv? They’ll LOVE me. LOVE me!!! Hahaha.’
Sorry, lost myself there. That happens when I think of Malcolm. Once the ‘huh?’ factor wears off, the Bishops can quickly grow on you. Being love-bombed with rocking two-minute pop nuggets has a hypnotic effect, to the extent that the Bishop brothers seem to be the only thing in the room. Logically, you know there’s a drummer on stage somewhere, but their charisma is such that the backbeat could be coming out of their ears; for a while they seem like the only source of energy around.
Sadly, they can also grow off you again, as the truth is that in an extensive and ultimately samey set, there aren’t yet enough killer songs in their repertoire to qualify them as true contenders. A step or two up in that area and they might be there, whereas the DeBretts are there already. Theirs is the star to hitch your fantasies to tonight. Get on board.
Written by McLaughlin on