Tuesday, 23 October 2007

LIVE REVIEW: You Say Party! We Say Die!/ Los Campesinos!/Sky Larkin/ Edinburgh Cabaret Voltaire, Tue 16 Oct

Whoever said the kids are all right was wrong. Well, that’s if you’re a work-weary adult who’s ventured over to Cabaret Voltaire to catch freckle-faced upstarts Los Campesinos! over a refreshing tankard of ale. But if you’re one of the electro-shock-mop adorning, Standard Grade-sitting teens here tonight I don’t suppose you give a fuck if us grimacing old bastards are left to sweat it out at the side bar guzzling pints while you and your mates eagerly anticipate a band with more buzz than a hive of speed-freaking bees.

Aye, these over-14 affairs can be infuriating alright, and when the much vaunted Sky Larkin take to the stage while another puzzled punter yelps “Ye mean I cannae take ma pint in tae the fuckin’ gig pal?”, the Leeds-based trio must feel like they’ve infiltrated a Smash Hits party bereft of a guiding parental hand. Yet when their vivacious splurge of karate-chopping riffs and veering keys swivel through the air like a snake-bitten Elastica, the dour-pussed old yins soon drag themselves into the venue's dark chasm to find cherub-faced front-gal Katie Harkin exuding her mystical, sultry tones over the jaunty pop gleam of ‘Keepsakes’.

There’s no doubting the tightness of these tune-churning ragamuffins – the stop/start helter-skelter stutter of latest release ‘Molten’ is more infectious and infinitely more desirable than any salacious, end-of-the-eve indie-kid liaison – but, tonight, there’s a lurking feel of blunt lethargy to what should be a knife-edged visceral massacre. Luckily, Harkin’s got the gift of a lung-busting gab and as the ravenous finale’s twitching kaleidoscope of bass and drum penetrates the crowd’s virginal solar-plexus', her charm-drenched tingle pulls the set from sombre, arm-crossed ambivalence into a salivating urge for more – a desire You Say Party! We Say Die! (YSP!WSD!) is ready and able to service with electrifying ease.

Relentless on record, YSP!WSD! is a deafening, fizzing, ear-bending proposition live. Orchestrated by the spasmodic Kate Bush-isms of the ringlet cropped Becky Ninkovic, this unhinged Vancouver-based quintet of sonic-deviants ignite the booze-thirsty mob into a aural combustion of appreciation with their insatiable, acid charged post-punk throbs. Tracks like the chomping, face in the gutter stomp of ‘Monster’ and 'Poison’’s loin-burning throttle are acrobatically executed by a clutter of rapturous guitar growls and echoic synth swirls that seer through this cavernous lair with the scorching heat of a hell-dwelling pinball.

Ninkovic is the undoubted star of this surging set; writhing and thriving to every pore-seeping riff while her Patti Smith-aping volley of yelps, shrieks, barks and shrills project heaven-wards with intentions of angel-taunting deviancy. Visibly exhausted after this exhilarating eight-song offering, she musters up one last jolt of knee-knotting stage contortion for the mind-pummelling ‘Falling Out’. More raucous than a Russian victory on artificial turf, it’s a jubilant fist-clenched closer deserved of qualification to a - surely soon to be - headline slot.

But tonight it’s the twinkle-toed grandeur of Los Campesinos! that has the locals licking their lips in anticipation. Riddled with the knack of knocking out jinking sun-kissed melodies that infiltrate the heart with a love-struck sense of retrospective euphoria, it’s almost inconceivable these next 45 minutes could be anything other than stunning. Yet as the Cardiff-based septet saunter on stage with the blissful aura of unassuming, ladder-climbing youth, there’s an initial flatness to the occasion that nuzzles its way into the group’s climactic starry-eyed swoons.

The deft glockenspiel chimes and mournful viola that hypnotise so readily on record struggle to entwine themselves amidst a jerking mesh of push-pull vocals and cranking guitar riffs that resemble a cluttered Arcade Fire without the melodramatic grandiloquence. Perhaps it’s a case of fresh-faced rustiness but it takes until the hyperactive glitter frenzy of ‘We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives’ before the group conjure up a spine-tingling shower of melody befitting the gushing hyperbole. But from then on in, the ensemble transcends into a majestic sprawl of shimmering keys and tumbling percussive tomfoolery that wraps its romance-hankering paws around a luscious 'It Started With A Mixx’ before wholeheartedly embracing the virulent harmonic splendour of ‘You! Me! Dancing!’.

And as the last glistening melody slinks off into the air, us grumbling auld bastards retreat to the exit for a much deserved post-gig pint. Tonight, those Los Camp’ kids were alright but in the future there’s no doubt they can be much, much better

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