The Zodiac, Oxford
6th February 2006
Tongue-twistingly monikered, The Seal Cub Clubbing Club bring both the frustration and complexity of their name to their music. The five-piece from The Wirral are refreshingly imaginative, if a little baffling the first time you hear them. Singer Nik Glover isn’t afraid to be unconventional, and his yelping and falsetto is sometimes startling. Their strange amalgamation of Pavement, Talking Heads, prog, punk and pub-rock is at times non-sequitur, but this makes it both interesting and challenging to listen to.
Idiot Pilot also veer from one style to another and back many times within the same track, but in a rather more conspicuous way. The duo from Bellingham, Washington, are two distinct parts of the same whole: Michael Harris commandeers plinky, bleepy synths and glitchy, frenetic drum machine rhythms with his soaring, impassioned (and sometimes over-the-top) vocals, while Daniel Anderson punctuates proceedings with his screeching voice and serrated guitar crunches. The result is like taking the verse and chorus parts of Linkin Park songs and polarising them as much as possible. The effect of this juxtaposition is at times a little disjointed but works well, especially in Spark Plug, the heaviest track Jesus Jones never did.
The power of the performance is, however, slightly tarnished by the execution. Arrogance which must make their recorded output sound passionate and exciting just comes across tonight as annoying; a fair amount of confidence is necessary, but some of the duo’s behaviour tonight – aggressively complaining about the sound system and so on – is of the type that can alienate an audience. Downstairs at the Zodiac might be small fry for a band whose debut album, Strange We Should Meet Here, is out on Reprise, but this isn’t the best way to win new fans. It’s a shame, because Idiot Pilot are otherwise quite impressive.