Tap Your Feet to Tapete: Comet Gain, The Telescopes, Andreas Dorau, and Simon Love at The Lexington 07/10/18
Tapete records brought eight of their finest acts to the Lexington last weekend to celebrate the German label’s 16th birthday. After We Are Muffy, Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans, Christian Kjellvander, and The Clientele graced the first floor stage on Saturday, London Student watched a similarly diverse line-up lead the celebrations on Sunday.
Simon Love – 7/10
Simon Love is a nostalgic songwriter who combines the sincere with the puerile. Listening to his songs, you can almost imagine the stacks of worn-out Elton John and Kinks records waiting for him at home. Pay too little attention and you might regard his performance as a pastiche of the ‘50s and ‘60s, a naïve attempt to recreate the days when guitar and piano-based music was pop by default. But humour is key to Love’s music, and his profane irreverence adds a post-modern spin to his classically-kitsch numbers.
It’s not the smoothest of sets. Beginning with ‘God Bless the Dick Who Let You Go’, Love is visibly shaking his head at the drummer by the end, some detail having been imperceptibly missed out. Three songs in and Love admits he’s forgotten his harmonica, but no mind, he impersonates the harmonica impressively, even mimicking tossing it to the audience at the end. Before ‘All This Dicking Around is Bringing Me Down’ he encourages his band – the Old Romantics – to follow him in undoing the top two buttons on his shirt, saying “This is my bid to be the new Nick Cave, with dick and fart jokes”.
They close the set with his two best songs. ‘Not If I See You First’ – introduced as “Our radio smash, it was played approximately six times on the radio” – has a sharply melancholic chord sequence and energy reminiscent of early Arcade Fire, and clever lyrics: “You always hurt the one you love, I guess this means you must have loved me very much”. And ‘I Fucking Love You’ is a suitably bombastic closer, based on a Madness-style organ and trumpet refrain. He ad-libs a dig at Leave voters that leaves the audience chuckling before reducing everything right down to a whisper, and building us back up to a huge romantic finale.
Andreas Dorau – 6.5/10
The unacknowledged truth is that Germans just want to have fun. Andreas Dorau is a German pop singer who got his first break when a song he wrote for a school assignment made it big on the European charts in the early ‘80s. Nowadays he’s Germany’s one-man answer to Pet Shop Boys. He’s aware of the absurdity of singing his set tonight entirely in German to an almost-exclusively British audience, so peppers his set of fun Deutschpop, Deutschfunk and Eurodisco with self-deprecating jokes about Anglo-German relations and onstage antics to keep us captivated.
He jokingly offers to translate for us before launching into the opener, which finds him shouting “Aaaacht!” theatrically into the mic over and over. His second tune is baggy, but there are some ‘technical difficulties’ by the end – “we don’t have that in Germany” he says. Soon he’s into his big hit ‘Girls in Love’ – almost one million streams on Spotify and no.1 in Belgium you know. And fair play – you don’t have to be a fan of ‘90s euro-pop to see that its mix of simplicity and detail would be addictive to those who are.
By the next track the drummer is having more technical problems. “We don’t use that word very often in German…mein führer” says Dorau, leading his bassist to hold his head in his hands. Whatever joke he was trying to make, it was thoroughly lost in translation. Next is a disco-pop number about “the wall, eurgh”, and the closer is that fast disco smash from his school days ‘Fred vom Jupiter’. He signs of with one last funny flourish – “Have a jolly good evening!”
The Telescopes – 6/10
There have been numerous different iterations of The Telescopes. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s they were a noisy psychedelic shoegaze/dream-pop group who were signed to Creation. Nowadays they are an experimental post-rock band in the mould of Swans with hypnagogic music made from feedback-drenched guitars, tribal drums and repetitious vocals. They draw exclusively from their latter phase tonight, playing in front of a screen showing figurative white-and-black visuals of what look like fireworks, or shells exploding in the air above a battlefield.
Their songs are almost shamanic in their incantatory repetition, and that’s a vibe their straggly long-hair and obvious expertise with hallucinogens only adds to. Vocalist Stephen Lawrie spends the set sat down, strumming an acoustic guitar. Sometimes his vocal melodies are purposefully flat and monotone, at others they are raga-esque, jumping awkward intervals in a fixed pattern. This music is all about the disorienting effect repetition has on the mind, and how it can lead you to notice and fixate upon microscopic details, giving the illusion of having been transported to another plane of perception. It’s not a set for the casual fan or the uninitiated, but numerous devotees stand entranced before the band, drawn into the ritual.
Comet Gain – 8/10
Pitchfork called Comet Gain “one of the most underrated contemporary indie bands in the UK” nine years ago, and they still haven’t got their commercial or critical due, but tonight’s crowd is full of folk who know the cult ‘90s band’s worth. They specialise in romantic, ramshackle strains of indie, their songs imbued with youthful energy even as they approach their fourth decade as a band. Their set tonight is a mix of adored old songs and the eagerly-anticipated new, including some yet-to-be-released tracks.
They open with ‘My Defiance’ from 2002’s Realistes album, dedicating it to the late Chas Hodges from Chas and Dave. It’s indie-rock pulled taut, David Feck’s lyrics speaking of his obsession with making music that gets to people, pursuing, as he puts it, “the look on a young girl’s face when she turns on her first record player”. There’s an unreleased new song – ‘Melted Mind’ – before a rendition of recent single ‘I Was More of a Mess Then’, which puts co-vocalist Rachel Owens, who dances joyously throughout the whole set, front and centre. It tacks sunny harmonies to dirty guitars just like The Vaselines. Feck describes it as “a song about vomiting on cars”.
‘An Arcade from The Warm Rain That Falls’ is another late-period single that is warmly received, but to nothing like the extent of the rapture that greets ‘Saturday Night Facts of Life’ a late ‘90s favourite that got a second life when covered by The Cribs on their Japan-only ‘Arigato Cockers’ EP. It’s a perfect romantic punk song in the vein of Buzzcocks, but with added jangle – Feck’s getting beat up by “King’s Cross scum” but it’s alright ‘cause he’s with his girl.
Soon after they’re showcasing another new song – one called ‘Mid Eighties’, but they have to abandon the first pass when Feck forgets the lyrics. After his bandmates jog his memory they pull it off nicely. They never managed to properly rehearse for this show, Feck explains, because the room they’d booked was right next to a pub where Nick Drake used to drink, which became something of a fatal distraction.
Nevermind, the lyrics to ‘Working Circle Explosive!’ are much harder to forget, and find the audience shouting along deliriously with the band. By this stage they’ve had to cut a new track or two from the set due to time constraints, but there’s time enough for old favourite ‘Fists In The Pockets’, a kind of slacker anthem in the guise of Pastels-style indie pop – “If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the beach”.
And despite the supposedly strict 11:00 curfew, they’re applauded back onto the stage for one final song – ‘The Kids at the Club’. It’s a perfect closer with a guys-and-girls singalong chorus, and a minute-long outro guitar solo for Feck to whip the crowd up into one final, celebratory frenzy.