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The Windmill, Brixton
Good Friday, 14th April 2017
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Gig Review

Indietracks: Teenage Fanclub, Art Brut, Camera Obscura, Specific Heats, Eux Autres, The Lovely Eggs, BMX Bandits and more
Midland Railway Centre, Butterley, Derbyshire

Article written by Ged M - Aug 9, 2009

Indietracks 3 has the best setting of any festival; stood at the outdoor stage, you can see (and hear, and smell) trains from the 50s and 60s shuttling between stations on this heritage railway and the steam loco unburdening itself of excess steam at the end of the day. It beats Glastonbury’s odours of dope, damp teenagers and faintly farty vegetarian food. That paradoxical mix of modern pop and industrial history (try walking between Swanwick and Butterley stations to see the strangest train graveyard) is one of the reasons why we chose Indietracks over Truck, the two unfortunately clashing this year.

There’s a new stage to replace last year’s flatbed truck but there's still the traditional shortage of toilets. It also has better headliners; after the underwhelming experience of the Orchids in 2007, the organisers signed some bigger attractions (Wedding Present, Los Campesinos) the following year and this year topped them with Camera Obscura, Art Brut and Teenage Fanclub. There seems to be a broader spectrum of indiepop too, including C86 originals, guitar bands and cheesy Eurodisco practitioners, plus plenty of ‘twee’. There’s been a lot of debate on message boards about the use of the t-word but there are plenty of bands here who could be described as twee or any slight variant on the word: arch, mannered and even camp. And plenty of fans too; indiekids might dislike stereotypes but can’t object when many of them adopt the tribal garb of cardies, hair slides, peaked caps and badge-strewn shoulder bags. It’s not the only defining feature but don’t cry into your Haribo when the press pick up on it.

Eddie Argos: Art Brut
There are enough bands that if you’re adverse to sugar and froth, they’re easy enough to avoid (sorry, Smittens!). And some unfortunate clashes mean missing some very good bands (sorry School!). And there's the sad news that this Indietracks marks the end of the line (oops!) for the Manhattan Love Suicides. With the band due to play on the train on Sunday, Adam John Miller surprises a packed guards van with the unwelcome news and then plays a set of acoustic songs from his new band The Medusa Snare. It’s a gloomy set of breakup tunes but he’s a charismatic frontman and there’s something worth exploring when they admit to being influenced by Flying Nun and the Elephant 6 collective, among others.

Some bands at Indietracks are great because they don’t disappoint and give us what we crave. With a new album coming out on Elefant later this year, Teenage Fanclub, who play a few new tracks that sound just like the old ones and a lot of old favourites, bring the festival to a comfortable close on a very wet Sunday evening. They seem to be moving into a space where they're appreciated both by the indiepop crowd and the heritage magazine set for their jangly guitar sounds and effortless harmonies, and all the old faves come out: ‘The Concept’, ‘Sparky’s Dream’, ‘Neil Jung’, ‘Everything Flows’, ‘I Need Direction’… when you hear classic tracks together on the same bill, it’s possible to fantasise an alternate universe where Oasis always remained a bunch of thuggish wankers playing youth clubs on Manchester estates while the Creation band that kept McGee in South American sherbet was the Fannies. It’s not a novel sound but Messrs Blake & co create a lovely warm feeling on a very damp evening.

On the theme of the familiar sounding, there are a couple of C-86 originals playing, who (re)appear to a fine reception. If the 1986-vintage Friends, by their own admission, are the grandfathers of indiepop, then Mighty Mighty are the great grandads who've just discovered musical Viagra. Not to put too fine a point on it, they look pretty ancient but sound bloody good, especially ‘Everybody Knows The Monkey’ which shrugs off the decades and asserts itself as a fine example of soul-inflected indiepop that stands up today. My first thoughts on seeing The BMX Bandits is that they've become a comedy act but that's just Duglas T Stewart's introductions (and also his outfit: burgundy pinstripe suit, orange Sesame Street t-shirt and red braces). Bar one ill-considered foray into bar-band rock'n'roll, their jangling, melodic pop with a romantic catch sounds as good as (and less shambling than) their 80s prime on songs like 'The Day Before Tomorrow' and 'Serious Drugs'. The rain threatens throughout their set but this is sunshine pop, guaranteed to leave you feeling good.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness
I’ve never seen Lucky Soul before sunset before but they play in weak light and bitter rain on the Sunday. They sound good despite the elements, their pop-soul now seeming to aim in the same Dusty-wards direction as Duffy. Denmark’s Northern Portrait is another band with a comforting sound – in this case the Smiths, even down to the Marr jangle and Morrissey falsetto. They seem to be popular, precisely because they offer no surprises.

A couple of hours later and they could have invited a real Smith to join them, which might have been too much of a time machine moment for Craig Gannon. But instead he’s playing a couple of numbers with Help Stamp Out Loneliness, who are one of the most distinctive acts of the festival, owning to the huge presence of singer D Lucille Campbell. Her stentorian, molasses-thick vocals, and the band’s slight Smiths intonation make them unmissable and potentially one of indiepop’s big hopes.

The Specific Heats
They’re one of the bands who really make it worth going to Indietracks for the music rather than the records and fanzines, the real ale and the general sense of community. Others include The Specific Heats who are on fire, literally, when their reverb unit starts cooking (not good when they’re playing a wooden church) and then metaphorically lift the roof off the church with a cocktail of high energy garage-rock and indie sweetness. Eux Autres are a three-piece from San Francisco but originally brother and sister Nicolas and Heather were brought up on a cult commune in Nebraska where nudity was common (not so smart in cold old Nebraska, I think). Their snappy indiepop sounds honeyed and quite European in tone (French pop meets Postcard Records) while the lyrics have a bit more bite than your average lovestruck indiepop tune. Downdime are from Leeds and have a scoop of the Wedding Present stirred into the mix along with Pavement and Sebadoh for an apathy-banishing set.

The Lovely Eggs flirt with twee but are like a razorblade in a toffee apple, or a primary school music class tutored by Jimmy Page. It’s deliberately naïve pop, expressive and simple, but David and Holly avoid being bogged down in tweeness by Holly’s crashing chords and their inventive way with instrumentation (the wool wrapped drumstick that unravels in the song to their artist friend), plus Holly’s interaction with the crowd (or as they're playing in a church, the congregation). ‘Have You Ever Seen A Digital Accordion?’ is a brilliant blend of the smart and surreally funny that makes them one of my favourite performances of the weekend. Sucrette make J-pop that sounds like 60s French pop, with songs that resemble delicate origami structures. Little My are a 8, 9 or 10-piece outfit (it’s hard to keep count), comprising various Cardiff musicians wearing animal headgear onstage, and they sound best on their violin-driven, wall-of-sound numbers though occasionally they go overboard on the toy instruments.

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura, Saturday night’s big draw, also leave you with a warm feeling with their melancholy Spectorish pop but they’ve always left me less impressed live than on record, possibly because there’s little spark or smiles on stage – they just put their heads down and churn out the songs. Unlike Art Brut. Their unruly, noisy and irreverent full-on rock’n’roll and comic timing (Pixies fronted by Frank Skinner, perhaps) is what Indietracks needs for balance. “Don’t share your sweets with the Kings of Leon” warns Eddie Argos as they extend ‘Slapdash for No Cash’ to highlight the rank shitness of what passes for “indie” music according to the NME. Morrissey and U2 are in the firing line but it’s the Kings of Leon and the Killers who take the head shots; and hearing Eddie intone “am I human/ or am I dancer?” repeatedly makes you wonder what shade of twat and level of medication is needed to write something so cringeworthy. He turns his attention to the X-Factor-buying public on ‘Demons Out’ but much of the set deals with more prosaic Art Brut concerns like public transport, summer jobs, comics (which prompts a foray into the crowd to describe, almost as stand-up comedy, his visit to the DC Comics building) and of course getting drunk and girls. Eddie’s still can’t sing but the sincerity of his words (and it amazes me how he reproduces it nightly) still talks to the heartbroken indiepopper in all of us.


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Foxtails Brigade "Far Away and Long Ago"
North By North "Pistoletta"
Die Liga der gewöhnlichen Gentlemen "Nach dem Spiel"
Theatre Royal "The Days Grow Hotter"
Oliver Gottwald "Freunde fürs Leben"
Heart/Dancer "Outro"
Clowwns "Idiot Bouncing"
Double Denim "Wide Open"
Flout "Rainchecks"
The Scenes "City Of White Blankets"


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