Tag Archives: Carling Academy Oxford

The Subways

Carling Academy, Oxford
2nd October 2008

I wasn’t really expecting to like The Subways. The Welwyn Garden City trio’s first album, Young for Eternity, was released in 2005 and completely passed me by in a flurry of mid-2000s post-punk garage rock and bands with plural names all starting with “The”. Since then however, singer and guitarist Billy Lunn and bassist Charlotte Cooper have split up, Billy’s had nodules on his vocal chords and they’ve recorded a second album in LA with Butch Vig. All these things have influenced the result, this year’s All or Nothing, a record which has made me regret my ignorance a little.

Tonight’s set neatly highlights the contrast between the first and second albums. The audience favourite Oh Yeah, epic With You and 60s-esque dollop of Ash-like nostalgia Mary are generally more lyrically naïve, whereas the latter album’s Kalifornia and new single Shake! Shake! demonstrate some social awareness; introspection is everywhere, especially on Always Tomorrow, I Won’t Let You Down and the more acoustic Strawberry Blonde. Butch Vig’s production has resulted – or maybe coincided – with a heavier sound; free download single Girls and Boys is the heaviest they get tonight, though they never sacrifice a tune for noise.

There’s no lack of energy; Billy obviously thinks he’d be too hot if he wore a top, which lends him a slightly dodgy Iggy Pop vibe, and Charlotte’s hairdo takes quite a thrashing. Charlotte and Billy obviously still share a certain synergy; their voices complement each other quite sweetly and they look to be still at ease with each other professionally, which is quite heartening in the resentment- and anger-filled world of rock.

They finish with Rock & Roll Queen, a three-year-old song which must be their best known, by virtue of its (and the band’s) best-known appearance – in this year’s Guy Ritchie film, Rocknrolla. It’s anthemic and catchy – and ticks all the popularity boxes while not really being structurally, musically or lyrically their best hour. Their extended performance of it allows Billy the opportunity to crowd surf and orchestrate a deafening screaming competion between both halves of the audience, which goes on for ages and leaves everyone on a high.


From Nightshift, November 2008

Alphabeat and Palladium

Carling Academy, Oxford
28th January 2008

If the words “Danish” and “pop” automatically make you think of Aqua, Junior Senior or Whigfield and sigh, fear not! Alphabeat are far less one-dimensional.

Poppy and jaunty yet more heartfelt than flippant, they flirt with Motown and soul, but not in any dodgy Toploader way; 10,000 Nights of Thunder reminds me of the Supremes despite Anders and Stine’s boy/girl vocal swooning, and What is Happening is a slower but still perfectly Radio 2-esque slice of pop-soul harmony. The single Fascination was Radio 1 playlisted, but there is better; they’re still innocent, kooky and Europoppy enough to get away with the lovely Boyfriend and its lyrics about holding hands, parents not wanting to know and whatnot.

Alphabeat are so infectiously upbeat that it’s difficult not to be charmed by them.

Palladium, on the other hand, are rather irritating. The fact that their best song (High 5) sounds like sixth formers trying to play a medley of Van Halen’s Jump and that Orson song raises alarm bells immediately.

The official line of them meeting on the session musician circuit and discovering a mutual love of Toto and Hall & Oates sounds very suspicious; the whole thing gives the distinct impression of being manufactured, especially considering their woeful, presumably Virgin-dictated look. I resent having had a childhood being told that particular acts were unfashionable only for them to resurface 20 years later via embarrassing, exploitative and frankly offensively cynical plagiarism with the sole purpose of lining record executives’ pockets. It’s the glam rock 50s revival all over again.

So it might not even be all Palladium’s fault, despite the posturing; their guitar/keyboard noodling (especially on the very AOR White Lady) shows they can play quite well. But for all the harmony and structure, they just can’t muster up memorable songs – which defeats the object, surely?


From Nightshift, March 2008