Yeah, they sound like Television. And The Modern Lovers. And Buzzcock. But the Londoners just do it so damn well
Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs released their debut single ‘I Watch You’ last October. All grinding guitars, rolling organ and frantic drumming, it’s as exciting a three-minute record as you’ll have heard all last year. Guitar music dead? No new bands to get excited about? Give it a fucking rest and listen to this, will you? Saying that, one song does not a renaissance make, no matter how many riffs, Farfisa organ stabs and frantic drumbeats it may contain. No, rather than signal the onset of a movement, it merely set the bar sky-high for the debut album that followed.
‘I Watch You’ also laid out Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs’ influences in plain sight. Where fellow Heavenly signings Temples and Toy plough more psychedelic furrows – they’re like normal furrows but multi-coloured – CBATV don’t look back as far as that. It’s not America’s West Coast in 1966 they long for. Their Year Zero is the altogether scuzzier, down-and-dirty New York bar scene of 1975.
If Boyer’s snipped vocal delivery didn’t give the Television/Modern Lovers/Richard Hell & The Voidoids-loving game away, the fact the song sounds like Jonathan Richman’s ‘Roadrunner’ definitely did. That said, there’s a defiantly English edge to ‘Clarietta’. In particular, the way Boyer sings “I feel so dapper in love” on that debut single points to more than a passing appreciation for the Buzzcocks. The rest of the album doesn’t stray too far from that formula – American proto-punk but driven around the M25 a few times. It’s as if CBGB has been picked up and transplanted to a London basement.
From the speed at which things have moved for the band – formed in February last year, signed after their first gig – you might gather there’s a breakneck pace at which they like to work. Opener ‘Things We Be’ emphasises this, kicked off by a simple drumbeat and guitar arpeggio, vocals following seconds later. It has all the urgency of a live show, as does gnarled and dog-eared second track ‘I’ve Got A River’. Indeed, ‘Clarietta’ is at its best with the fuzzy, rough edges left intact. Any lulls in momentum, brief as they are, come when things get too precise or measured, as on ‘Go Blow A Gale’. The band may love Television, but they shouldn’t try to ape the deadly accuracy of their music. Much better the primal power of ‘Clarinet’, closer ‘The Central Tonne’ and album-highlight-cum-mantra-for-life ‘Be Glamorous’.
Recorded with Edwyn Collins in London’s West Heath Yard Studio, there’s a distinct lack of reverb or dressing on the album, giving each of the 11 songs an ‘upfront’ sound, as if the band are actually in the room with you, singing directly into your head. Not that ‘Clarietta’ needs any help on that score. It’ll be under your skin in no time.
As for meeting that high bar they set? Boyer and his Voyeurs cleared it with daylight to spare.