Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Communion @ Brighton Prince Albert

Communion was set up by three like-minded musical souls, including Ben Lovett from Mumford & Sons in 2006. Largely associated with the UK ‘nu-folk’ movement, it has grown in stature and popularity over the years, providing a stage for many acts associated with the scene including Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, Alessi’s Ark, Peggy Sue and Mumford & Sons themselves. Having expanded from its London home, Communion now hosts nights in Brighton, Bristol and even Australia.

Shared musical ideals are as important at Communion as genres, which may explain why the music at Brighton’s Prince Albert is eclectic, eccentric and for the most part completely lacking in fiddles, acoustic guitars and banjos. Only the youthful three-piece Common Tongues bring a little of the hoe-down with a violin amongst their strings.

A pleasant surprise comes in the form of the sweetly attractive and shoeless Kyla La Grange (pictured). She may have roots in gentle acoustic composition but her songs have a darker rock intensity that forces its way through with emotionally taught theatrical vocals. During Vampire Smile she sings of a lover meeting a sticky end and that she’ll get “Drunk on you and kill your friends.” Forcing out songs with a heavy involvement and impact, by the climax every break up she’s had has become the audiences. “Without you I’m a poor excuse of what I used to be,” she gasps and you believe every word she is singing. Low on the bill, but the best of the night.

Introduced by the white suited and black bow tie wearing compere for the evening as “One short of a Cha Cha Cha,” the taught riffing disco rock of Cha-Cha show that skinny jeans boys can do more than just play landfill indie. Proudly strutting their cocky take on The Police getting their groove on, the sly energetic picky riffs of Cha-Cha are competently tight, without ever squeezing the earth, but maybe forcing the feet a little.

More indie types are Rob the Rich. Like a party in a toyshop they have a childlike zest that frantically tries to make as much noise as possible. There’s a lot going on - squelch rhythmic madness, relentless speed drumming, and songs that tropically skip all over the place. Rob The Rich possess a very shambolic English quirkiness, but have just enough musical tape to bind the whole thing together and find the odd hook in amongst the melee.

Watching headliners Pope Joan live is like being taken roughly in a high voltage threesome by a pumped-up thrusting power-pill hungry pac-man and a deranged speak and spell machine. Old school electro arcade machine sounds jerk off over choppy angular guitars and frantic bass-synth whilst moustached lead singer Sammy Aaron Jr. commands the rhythmically bouncing indie stomp with lean back rock star poses. Add in a topless drummer and a flat capped crotch thrusting bass player attired in the clothes of a country gent and you can see that Pope Joan are no ordinary band. Yet neither are they an extraordinary group. Whilst their music fizzes with indie flavoured soda stream energy, it lacks the fibre or soul to grab you by the balls or tits one hundred percent. Dictator with its twitchy guitar riffs and gradual exultant build is probably their best song, but much of their set feels empty despite the energy.

With that Communion is done. The congregation can certainly not feel short changed, the evening costing just a few pence more than an expensive bottle of designer beer. If anyone has been fully converted however, is another question.

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