Tag Archives: 2003

Scratch Perverts

Po Na Na, Oxford
6th February 2003


I first saw The Scratch Perverts a few years ago, but I didn’t expect them to be the same this time; at their peak an 8-strong collective, they are now slimmed down to a trio of Tony Vegas, Prime Cuts and Plus One, and their unique brand of turntablism has evolved to match. At Po Na Na, on 4 decks and 2 mixers, Perverts founder Tony Vegas – sporting a fishing hat – and Plus One, both fresh from a tour of Australia and Hong Kong, displayed fingerwork so swift their hands blurred in the light.

Missy Elliot’s Work It kicked off a section of rap and hiphop (including the likes of Punjabi MC, Adam F, Cypress Hill, Run DMC, P Diddy, Beastie Boys, Justin Timberlake, DJ Shadow…) Completely destroying the beginning of The Next Episode, to the crowd’s delight, they seamlessly mixed tempos and styles with each other; the set travelled through soul and funk, ending up with breakbeats and an all-out drum and bass fest. They scratched with (justifiable) near arrogance but with an innate instinct for rhythm; being there was more an complete experience than a being present at a display. The set was expertly choreographed, though they seemed to work with each other so harmoniously that you would not have known if it were pre-prepared or improvised.

Their varying line up proves how they are constantly evolving and keeping their skills fresh and sets up to date. As former DMC World Champions, solo and together, they are experienced turntable battlers but still versatile enough to rock a crowd so much they rose as one to the beat on occasion. The crowd got crazier as the tempo increased; they really suited the type of venue, which let them perform very close to the crowd (if not underneath them) and helped them give the night a distinct atmosphere.


From Nightshift, March 2003

Photo: © Richard Whitelock


The Zodiac, Oxford
2nd July 2003

Things are finally looking very hopeful for Manchester-formed quartet Longview, long-signed but seemingly also long-groomed for somewhat inevitable Coldplay-like mainstream success. Recent tours in support of Easyworld, Goldrush, Athlete and Mull Historical Society have led to this headline tour to promote their debut album Mercury.

There’s something about Longview that’s impossible to dislike. They stay resolutely melodic while not letting their overall sound – that of quietly optimistic melancholy – turn to dirge. They have an impressive guitar arsenal – each guitarist, and even the bassist, swapping for most numbers – yet their sound is constant and full. Frontman Rob McVey’s strong voice is highly reverberated to sound winsome and mellifluous; the rest of the band all combine in impressive 3 and 4-part harmonies, and at times voices are by far their strongest instruments, especially on Still, Falling Without You and Can’t Explain.

Nowhere – a past single, but sure now to be re-released – is typical of their sound: not musically groundbreaking, but all parts make a very satisfying whole. Brooding rolling drums and bass coupled with higher guitar riffs characterise I Would, a slower number which Rob said “suited the atmosphere” of downstairs at the Zodiac very well (giving us the impression that it’s somewhat smaller than the most recent venues they’ve played, and proving their recent ascendency).

They closed the main set with Further, their Lord’s Prayer-plundering current single, which has reached the prestigious pinnacle of the Radio 1 playlist and an entry at number 27. Sara Cox recently said it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Lost Boys soundtrack, and she’s right, in a way; it seems timeless.

Their catchy lyrics create a mood rather than tell a story; they are eloquent in emotion rather than intellectual pretention, which is good, because that wouldn’t suit their mellow indie style.


From Nightshift, August 2003

The Futureheads

The Zodiac, Oxford
13th October 2003

Sunderland quartet The Futureheads are one of those bands that compel you to see them before – just in case – they get famous.

Energetic and punchy pop punk rockers, they have a good line in short sharp bursts of urban tales, mostly reminiscent of early XTC (though a bit more flippant in their story-telling) but with echoes of early Jam (especially on Ticket) and Gang of Four, which isn’t surprising as their recent EP 1-2-3-NUL! was produced by Andy Gill.

They’re also idiosyncratic, with songs like Stupid and Shallow (which Rolf Harris look-alike Ross Millard dedicates to the act of buying shoes) and Piece of Crap rubbing shoulders with recent single First Day, about the reality of growing up and getting a job, Man Ray, possibly a paean to the artist (though it’s hard to tell) and a cover of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love.

Ross, Barry Hyde and Jaff, all on guitars and vocals, demonstrate very impressive lyrical play and harmonies; this alone makes them worth seeing. They seemed to have honed this down to a fine, if eccentric, art, sometimes even yelping or yodelling, but always in time with each other. The tune does sometime make way for the vocals and rhythm, admittedly, and they do tend to like one particular note and don’t deviate from that much, but their habit of slightly wandering off in another direction mid-song is endearing and at least keeps your attention.

Everything seems very quick and urgent with The Futureheads: their subject matter, staccato guitar and vocal styles and song lengths. They’re strong enough for the catchiness of their songs to also develop; they’re otherwise very impressive but the tunes you take away in your head aren’t theirs but the songs of artists they sound like, sung by their voices.


From Nightshift, November 2003

Fiel Garvie, Roquphane and The Epstein-Barr Virus Band

The Cellar, Oxford
17th June 2003

Norwich female-heavy psychedelics Fiel Garvie made Melody Maker’s Single of the Week with For What I Love in 1997, and, 2 years after their first album, release their second – Leave Me Out of This – in the Autumn. Initially sounding like The Sundays, their slightly unhinged, spookily atmospheric pop gives singer Anne Reekie a perfect platform for her breathy and ever so slightly sinister vocals. At worst sounding like a sparser and edgier Garbage, at best a Tricky-Bjork-Sigur Ros hybrid, they craft electronic intimacy though sparse arrangements, their major keys belieing their doomladen lyrics. Definitely worth checking out.

Roquphane couldn’t have been more different. Reminiscent of late-70s Old Grey Whistle Test funk rock, their upbeat jazz indie funk rock fusion quickly established them in a groove they maintained throughout the set. Their animated singer dominated proceedings with her impressively versatile and accomplished voice, while the guitar and bass, at times meandering into solos and funk riffs, were the glue that made their overall sound much greater than the sum of their parts. Refreshingly different and ones to watch.

The Epstein-Barr Virus Band changed the tone once again. Big Al & Ollie Wills, with a full backing band including members of Spartacus, brought country back to rock and roll. Less twisted than The Broken Family Band, and armed with a set of warm melody-driven full-sounding songs, they are really quite likeable; at times more bluesy and rock tinged, but always in a country vein. Their closing song, New York City Blues, was a bit of a stormer. Always accessible, and not so much quirky as individual, any band fronted by an incredibly tall man in a ten gallon hat playing harmonica solos can’t be all bad. Charming in a different way from the Trailerpark night’s other acts, but charming all the same.


From Nightshift, July 2003


The Cellar, Oxford
16th December 2003

I am very pleasantly surprised by Cayto. For all their proselytising and “Cayto Ministry of Exploitation” manifesto propaganda (“All sounds will be heard”, “Hate your instrument” etc), I am expecting four loud jumpy shouty Glaswegians with a gripe against the world. But what I get is a hybrid of more styles than I thought possible, all strung together in a very thoughtful way.

Singer Paul Henry’s piano plays a prominent part in the proceedings – at times making them a modest Muse without the histrionic vocals, at other times making them Faith No More playing a prog rock sea shanty with Randy Newman on frantic piano pounding (like on C’Mere). They are not only stylistically versatile but also musically accomplished, forceful yet restrained – they made it sound too easy, even maybe over-rehearsed at times. Paul apologises for being scrappy, but they might just be a little too tight. Their fondness for theatrically varying time signatures, key signatures and tempo keeps them interesting, but pulls them too close at times to self-indulgent jazz; they’re never too dischordant or dissonant, but do sometimes ramble – progressing from XTC melodies via U2-like reverb to Metallica riffs and choruses. Guitarist Nobby looks to be riffing off into his own world, especially on Spiders – a song Paul says is even weirder than all their other songs, though this is maybe playing down how weird the others are.

It’s hard to tell their influences, and whether they’re trying to be one thing through the medium of another, or just doing whatever they want. It’s a shame they play so few songs because I would be very interested in hearing the rest of their repertoire; it seems like we have only had a tiny peek into Caytoworld tonight, and there is a whole world of melded styles and strange chord sequences out there.


From Nightshift, January 2004

Panel Of Judges, Byrne, The Broken Family Band, The Maplettes and Spartacus

The Cellar, Oxford
27th February 2003

Here’s a challenge – to describe 5 bands and the atmosphere of another excellent Trailerpark at the Cellar in 300 words. Here goes…

First up were Melbourne-based instrument-swapping new wave-y trio Panel Of Judges, on their first British tour. Unfortunately hampered by bad sound levels and being slightly out of tune, their West Coast-ish jangles were very pleasant and showed promise: if (when) they come up with a killer tune, it could be very special.

Second came mellow indie crooners Byrne, fresh from supporting MBICR at the Union Chapel the night before. Frontman Scot Patrick Byrne is a powerful presence (especially on recent single Tidal Wave), and his angst contributed to the overall mix of strong vocal harmonies set against a backdrop of guitars and occasional organ and other reverbed electronic stuff. They reminded me of the Waterboys in places, and were by far the most emotional – and serious – band on the bill.

Third up were Cambridge-based acerbic alt.country antagonists The Broken Family Band, whose sweet melodies, juxtaposed with sarcastic and hateful lyrics, created a bundle of vicious energy, musically and lyrically redolent of The Eels but with added British cynicism. Singer Steven Adams seemed permanently pissed off throughout the set (though he did say he was ill), but this added to their charm somehow.

Fourth on were “The Maplettes”, AKA Goldrush, now Jef-less and trying out new stuff. Their songwriting is moving on, exploring different areas of melody and rhythm, and these rockier and janglier new songs will surely be developed further live and in the studio.

The exhausting night was rounded off by Spartacus, looking like a local instrumental supergroup of sorts (boasting 2 drummers and 2 bassists) and sounding like TROT’s scrappier but rockier and more daring – if slightly warped – younger brother.


From Nightshift, April 2003


Cayto – The Cellar, Oxford – 16th December 2003

The Futureheads – The Zodiac, Oxford – 13th October 2003

Longview – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd July 2003

Fiel Garvie, Roquphane and The Epstein-Barr Virus Band – The Cellar, Oxford – 17th June 2003

Panel Of Judges, Byrne, The Broken Family Band, The Maplettes and Spartacus – The Cellar, Oxford – 27th February 2003

Scratch Perverts – Po Na Na, Oxford – 6th February 2003