Acoustic Ladyland/Xerox Teens/Situationists live at White Heat, Madame JoJo's, Tuesday February 6
A real scoop this one for the folks down at White Heat and the public squeezed into Soho’s Madame JoJo’s (Radio 1’s uber-muso Steve Lamacq among them) as no-wave jazz-punkers Acoustic Ladyland are making quite a reputation for themselves, two albums since they started out playing jazz covers of Hendrix and Strokes’ songs.
Unfortunately, openers The Situationists hadn’t been informed that The Futureheads aren’t due their own tribute act yet. Not that there was anything offensive, or even unaccomplished, in their ragged harmonies and rehashed 1981 guitar lines, they just arrived three years late for their own party. From the three-pronged front-of-stage line-up right down to the quirky cover version (step up Daft Punk’s ‘Digital Love’), when the 'Hounds Of Love’ crew become globe-conquering megastars The Situationists could mount a decent career at weddings and bar mitzvahs. A few fringe music press publications and people in the know have fallen hard for the next act recently. The first thing to notice about Xerox Teens is their unusual stage set-up, focusing all attention to the centre and the relentless drummer.
The second is that they make quite a groovy garage rock racket, almost like some sort of mutant genetic splicing between The Fall, Dr Feelgood and The Muppets’ house band. Also, it must be mentioned that the singer has clearly been studying Mark E Smith and Lou Reed a little too hard for his too-cool-for-school exterior to ring true.
A discernible buzz of expectation greets the on-stage arrival of Acoustic Ladyland drummer Seb Rochford to set-up, preceded some thirty seconds earlier by his Biblically-proportioned mane of hair. Flanked by two studious-looking Toms (Cawley and Herbert, keyboards and bass respectively) front-man, saxophonist and sometime vocalist Pete Wareham arrives a few minutes later. Perhaps pushing the crossover potential AL possess, he’s decked out in skinny black jeans and studded belt, looking every bit the self-conscious indie teen, until you remember that he’s a jazz musician in his thirties.
Sensibly they choose to open with 'Road Of Bones’, the riotous fusion of sleek jazz and filthy riffage that opens their most recent album ‘Skinny Grin’. Much of the set consists of tracks from this new opus, an uncompromising rebuke to their critics within jazz circles which moves them even further away from their contemporaries in the modern British scene. Wareham plays his saxophone with unfettered intensity, at times looking as though every blood vessel in his face is about to explode, particularly noticeable on ‘Last Night’. For those not au-fait with the protocol of the jazz gig, there are welcome forays into vocal tracks, with mic duties handled by Alice Grant, Anne Booty and Wareham himself. ‘Red Sky’ is an early highlight, with the contrast between icy keyboard and melodious sax line broken up by the barely-restrained violence of the bass-playing.
The packed crowd nod along in bemused fashion to Rochford’s effortlessly extraordinary drum patterns, while the fluidity between the other members is evident throughout. Towards the end, Coco Electrik’s Anne Booty comes out to add the sultry vocals to ’Cuts And Lies’, the infectious new single, which could propel the group to reach a wider audience than the periphery of scenes they currently occupy. It’s clear from tonight’s performance that when more acclaim is afforded Acoustic Ladyland, they will be more than able to back it up in the live arena.