The Zodiac, Oxford
22nd January 2007
Cardiff lo-fi trio The Victorian English Gentlemens Club (deliberately lacking an apostrophe) revel – and excel – in unconventionality. Emma, Louise and Adam’s art punk is a quirky, shouty affair, with disjointed melodies and rhythms crashing into angular and edgy guitars. Their scant respect for songwriting conventions is often confused and confusing – like in the wonderfully titled My Son Spells Backwards – but works far better in the impossbily catchy Amateur Man and Ban the Gin. Veering from Devo to The Young Knives and back again, it might not – deliberately – hold together all of the time, but it’s always interesting.
While TVEGC suit the intimacy of downstairs at the Zodiac quite well, it’s far too small for The Noisettes. Singer and bassist Shingai – for whom ‘charismatic’ seems far too weak a description – is literally climbing up the walls, such is her energy. Headline touring to promote their debut album What’s the Time Mr Wolf and fresh from supporting Muse – in whose arena venues their sound was subdued and strangely lost – The Noisettes are bursting with tunes and styles, as if they’re trying to cover all bases with the first album before polishing one direction. Shingai’s versatility covers everything from soul to hard rock via operatic screeching, while the other two look like refugees from Camel and are quite happy to noodle away on their own, weaving in and out of Shingai’s bass and voice. They’re adept enough to sometimes do away with the bass guitar without losing volume or depth, too.
The blues-rock fusion is often a bit jumbled but it’s all very frenetic and fun; Don’t Give Up is an exalting rally cry, while Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit) is a multi hook-laden anthem. However, the real star isn’t the music but Shingai; forget Beth Ditto, this is the current coolest woman in rock.
Photo: © Kirmie