Saturday, 10 April 2010

The B of the Bang + The Dawn Chorus @ Portsmouth Drift In The City Bar

There’s a moment just before The B of the Bang play Lung – their song about dying, where the band pause for a moment to announce that punk svengali Malcolm McLaren has died. It would have been interesting to see what McLaren would have made of this evening. He once proclaimed “It is better to be a flamboyant failure than any kind of benign success.” There’s little flamboyancy or failure tonight, although the muddy sounding speakers and sterile interior of the venue do their best attempt to doom both bands performances. Yet neither is the evening a benign success. In fact benign is a word that probably doesn’t sit comfortably with The B of the Bang, evidence being found when singer Christopher Whitear cups his hands around his mouth to yell at the chattering crowd to “Shut up,” during Last Day On Earth, which they play unamplified and acoustic from the venue floor. It makes for an almost angry anti-folk start, the band then marching forward with a rocked up set of songs taken from their debut album Beginning.Middle.End and their new tour only EP Art Deco.

It’s the new songs that impress the most tonight. The fusion of electric guitar riffs and “Ooh La La,” harmonies throughout Film Noir are almost sunny and upbeat until the song descends into an orgy of clattering noise that segues perfectly into Reykjavik 101 - a madcap math-rock workout that jives like a laptop-stripped Prodigy number. The stately First Thought of the Morning is mournful and gentle - it would probably have McLaren turning in his grave when he gets there, so full of anti-energy and downbeat melody.

The B of the Bang style – black t-shirts, ripped jeans - and sound, a mix of folk-rock with uncompromising guitars that display none of the niceness of current new country-folk kings Mumford and Sons - is deeply unfashionable. This though is probably just the way the band like it. It’s the old cliché, but they seem to be playing this for themselves and if anyone else buys into it’s a bonus.

The Dawn Chorus (pictured), who play before, are label mates and from the same musical family as The B of the Bang - distant cousins connected through Whitear playing in both groups. A double drumming, accordion, melodica, and eastern European sounding rabble, McLaren would hate them for their lack of glamour and un-punk attitude - just a bunch of lads standing on stage and playing the songs straight. However, there is something verging on exhilarating when they go hell for leather on Carnivalesque, tower like trumpets and cut-throat guitars battling away, their drummer rasping out the chorus sung on the recorded form by Frank Turner. Ironically it sounds almost gypsy-punk - Romanian Sex Pistols fans would be proud - and there’s a bit of that sentiment towards the end as well, when the whole of The B of the Bang join the stage whilst the groups trumpet player blasts brass from atop the speaker stack. Maybe Malcolm McLaren would have had a smile there.

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