Saturday, 21 February 2009

Live Review: The Soft Pack + Stricken City + The Invisible @ The Lexington 20/2/09

The Lexington, with its sunken dance floor and freshly revamped red décor, is an apt setting for tonight’s line-up, courtesy of Rockfeedback vs. White Light. The Invisible’s close, proggy electro-funk reverberates in the heat of the dark room, infectiously rhythmic and almost hypnotic in its intensity. The Invisible are a three piece consisting of borrowed members of other bands (Jade Fox, Matthew Herbert, Polar Bear) that have been playing together for about three years; long enough, at least, to hone their synth-laden guitar-based space-pop to a level of mesmerising polish. Their sound isn’t a million miles from TV On The Radio’s, but infinitely more laid-back, with Dave Okumu stealing all the limelight as a huge silhouette in a glistening tunic, anything but invisible himself.

Stricken City is a million miles from this opening. After the honed precision and obvious experience of their forebears they appear especially young and musically flawed – although it is clear that intentional imperfections are part of the act. Front woman Rebekah Raa is an act in herself, in fact. Dressed in an odd concoction of sportswear, feathers and animal print, she cuts a diminutive, unwashed figure centre stage, flicking her wrists and babbling nonsense between tracks.

Stricken City’s produce piecemeal indie-pop heavily informed by the lo-fi twee-indie-pop of the eighties. At first it’s unclear whether Rebekah can sing for all the affected tweeting and whooping she is mustering, but there are moments where notes tail off into magnificent vibrato, hung on the scratchy indie-hubbub of the band. Although she commands the limelight admirably, Rebekah’s stage persona grates with its stylised eccentricities, and it is somewhat a relief when Stricken City depart the stage ready for tonight’s headliners.

Heralded as ‘the new Strokes’, The Soft Pack gained mini-notoriety recently for changing their name from ‘The Muslims’ because of racist concerns. The gimmick has worked as a small masterstroke in PR, managing to grab them headlines that they perhaps hadn’t quite earned with the recent release of their only EP. The hard work starts here for this San Diego four-piece, as they try and retain the interest in them sparked by the name-change. While comparisons to the Strokes aren’t unfounded, there is something woozier and less-angular about their fuzzed, west-coast rock that suggests Wire or even The Velvet Underground. It’s delivered with confidence, but The Soft Pack lack panache tonight, perhaps due to the heavy touring they’ve been doing of late.

This is rock music that wears its influences on its sleeve, too, and while revivalist rock ‘n’ roll has its place, for those of us savvy to recognise sonic nostalgia like this, it tends solely to ignite a yearning for the real deal. With this in mind, whether or not The Soft Pack can carve their own niche will be critical to their longevity in the coming year.

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