Sunday, 2 November 2008

Black Kids + Ladyhawke @ Portsmouth Pyramids

At the back end of 2007 Black Kids and Ladyhawke both came to Breaking More Waves attention in a big way. Black Kids had released the fantastic Wizard of Ahhs, a free download E.P combining joyous indie pop sounds with a yelping vocal reminiscent of Robert Smith of The Cure. It was on the Breaking More Waves stereo for months. Ladyhawke was not at the time signed to a record label, but had put out a couple of tracks via Myspace that were full of such incredibly unhip 80’s references such as Bananarama and Stevie Nicks, that we loved her instantly simply for doing something a little different.

A year however can be a long time in pop music.

Black Kids, initially so full of colour and hope released Partie Traumatic, a Bernard Butler produced album that at best was merely average. Butlers production brought some pop sheen, reminiscent of Hot Hot Heat and the aforementioned Cure but many of the tracks had a missing spark. There were some highlights, such as I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You, but these highlights were songs that we had already heard on the free E.P. It seemed very much a case of first out of the blocks, but lacking the stamina to deliver at the finish line. Ladyhawke likewise got lots of tongues wagging when she was signed to Modular records, and a press flurry followed, but her live performances failed to dazzle, her lanky geekiness, lack of stage presence and reliance on guide backing vocals at subsequent live gigs raising questions about her true potential.

So as the two artists bumble into Portsmouth for a gig at the Pyramids Centre on the seafront, there is a chance to redeem themselves. A chance to kick some musical butt. Unfortunately both acts fail to hit where it hurts. That is not to say that either act is particularly poor, but watching them perform certainly doesn’t inspire either.

Ladyhawke underwhelms. Despite a slightly beefier sound than previous performances I’ve seen, the previously mentioned reliance on a guide vocal to flesh out the choruses and complete lack of personality leaves one feeling empty and short changed. Even songs like Back Of A Van and My Delirium which on record sound like potential hits become mundane and pedestrian.

Black Kids take to the stage with OMD's ABC Auto Industry blasting from the speakers before mop haired lead singer Reggie Youngblood gasps flirty lyrics of partying, kissing and dancing over the bands mix of choppy guitars and watery wavering synths. Unfortunately the overall effect lacks significant punch. Live Black Kids seem to occupy almost the same musical pop territory as Alphabeat, but without the energy, fizz or buzz to move a crowd. Even the vain attempts by the slightly hyperactive bouncy keyboard players to get the band clapping and jumping seem slightly cringe worthy and pathetic. The fact that the band have to plea to the crowd “Could you guys pretty pretty please dance with us,” for their final song says it all. One of the most unmemorable performances this year.

On the basis of this gig, I suspect the shelf life of Black Kids and Ladyhawke will be short unless they can find a few more keys to open new creative doors. It’s not that either act was poor, but average simply isn’t good enough.

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