Sunday, 10 February 2008
time to hear the truth....
Alphabeat / Palladium @ Bodega Social, Nottingham - 10th February 2008
Alphabeat are a Danish pop band from Silkeborg. They are a six piece with drums, guitar, bass, keyboards and two vocalists, yet somehow they all managed to just about squeeze onto the tiny stage at the Bodega with enough room left to swing a tambourine. Right from their very first song, it is also clear that they are absolutely ace. The boy / girl lyrics occasionally bring to mind the B52s or the Sugarcubes, but they more frequently reminded me of some of the better Eurovision entrants - especially on the joyful "Touch Me Touching You", which starts with the distinctly Abba-esque tactic of singing the title of the song before launching into the first verse. This was frothy, effervescent and seemingly guileless pop music played by a band with smiles on their faces.
"This is a song about a boyfriend, singer Anders SG declared before one song. It's called 'boyfriend'". He was animated throughout, dancing furiously on his tiny piece of stage, shaking his oversized tambourine and trading vocals with the lovely, sparkly Stine Bramsen. They seemed to like Nottingham too. Apparently we clap and whoop a lot, which is good.
The set was a bright and breezy 30 minutes and finished with the band politely squeezing their way through the crowd to the back of the room where they had left their jackets. I listen to an awful lot of po-faced, serious guitar music, and this lot were a breath of welcome fresh air. A band to be cherished, I think. They're back in April to headline Stealth's "Wonky Disco", and if you're looking for something to do, you could surely do a lot worse.
Which brings me nicely to Palladium.
I first became aware of Palladium when they had a little feature dedicated to them in the February edition of Q magazine. The feature talked up their musicianship, with the band having apparently been formed by some session players bored of session work with famous, but apparently deeply untalented musicians. The band are coy over who they mean and have draped themselves in pseudonyms, but singer/bassist Peter Pepper worked with Amy Winehouse (she was good, apparently, but given that she now has a fantastic, but mainly black soul backing band, this was presumably at a time when Amy could only afford to hire pasty white no marks). From their photo in the article, they also looked like the kind of band who have dedicated more care and attention to their image than they can possibly have done to their music.... an impression that was reinforced by a poster of the band at the gig showing the drummer looking just like Rhydian from X Factor and with Pepper wearing what looked like a pair of white tights and holding a telescope up to the sky. British Sea Power can do that stuff and look charmingly eccentric. In the hands of Palladium, it just made them look like wankers to me.
What does wikipedia say about them then?
"Pink Floyd, The Police, Toto, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder and Hall and Oates have all been mentioned by the band as influences."
Perhaps I wasn't really in the mood for this - although to be fair, neither were most of the rest of the crowd, several of whom left straight after Alphabeat had finished. My mood wasn't really improved when the band launched into their first song, and the music was an absolutely blatant steal from the Red Hot Chili Peppers version of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground". Blatant. Pretty much note for note. That got my attention, at least, but from that moment on, I was spending more time listening out for what they had stolen than I was to actually listening to each song on its own merits. They just sound so derivative - which in itself is not necessarily a crime, but I kept picking up really familiar sounding melodies and found myself thinking of bands like Yes and Genesis. For all their dressing up, Palladium seem to almost completely lack any kind of credible stage presence. The keyboardist, who goes by the name of Rufio Sandilands, tried to make a virtue of wearing a golf-visor side on and of jumping around crazily to every song, but all this did was draw attention to the fact that such antics were no substitute for genuine charisma. The drummer - Rocky Morris, apparently - was muscular, I suppose but the biggest handicap of all was Pepper at the front of the stage. He just looks wrong. I'm sure he's a very accomplished bassist, and he seemed to be singing in tune and everything, but he was wrong. He started out wearing some kind of cardigan and scarf combo, but after a couple of songs, he stripped down to reveal a white vest. He has no charisma. None.
"This is our next single: White Lady"
Rather than being the cue for a catchy little number that will launch the band to certain chart success, this seemed to be an invitation to launch into some kind of awful, dragging dirge. Hmm.
Positives. Hmm. I didn't like his look much, but I did think that guitarist Rostas Fez (*sigh*) was quite handy. The band themselves were quite tight too. They might not have sounded very original, but they can actually play.
Unfortunately, it's not just about how good a musician you are, is it?
After about thirty minutes, we walked out. I think that's the first time in my gig-going history (and not including wandering around at festivals) that I've walked out of a gig whilst an act have still been onstage. I'm not especially proud of it, but I simply couldn't stand the band any longer.
Good luck to them, and I'm sure they'll have more success, but they did absolutely nothing for me. According to wiki, they have just finished recording their debut album "The Way It's Not", to be released 17 March 2008. Looking forward to that one then.
I'm now presented with something of a dilemma with regard to the score for this gig. My lowest score to date was the 2/10 that I gave to the Twang. That was a dreadful night, with a terrible set complemented by an awful, bolshy crowd throwing beer around. But even then, the Twang have still got two fantastic songs. As a whole, the evening at the Bodega was much more pleasant; the sound was better, the crowd was a lot nicer and I really enjoyed the support. This has to count for something, even if I did not enjoy Palladium at all and ended up walking out of the gig early.
Ok, here's what I'll do:
Alphabeat: 8 / 10 (30 minutes of pop pleasure)
Palladium: 3 / 10 (not for me, thanks)