Colorado songwriter mixes obscenity and emotional heft with huge pop melodies
Hard-Fi/Boy Kill Boy/Duels/Distophia: Hammersmith Palain, London Monday, February 13
Staines’ globe-conquering stars return to their roots in triumphant mood
First up are Brummie four-piece Distophia, a band who don’t yet seem to have decided what they want to sound like, but are quite determined to sound like everything. There’s a rule in music that the variety of musical genres should be inversely proportional to the excitement level generated by your trousers. Distophia have the good grace to prove it – four lads in scruffy jeans who swing from falsetto-laced indie to harmony-tinged power-pop to rabid screamo in the space of a verse.
Last time we checked, Leeds-upstarts Duels were Britpop-robbing scamps in awe of the Kaisers. Now they seem to have discovered lightning-strike guitars and gothic organ to toss into their unhinged SFA-style pop cauldron. They’ve also discovered staggering around the stage like you’ve got your amps wired up to your verterbrae, which is a welcome addition to any show. Next week they’ll probably be setting the Koran to 1940s bebop, but at least we’ll never get bored.
Boy Kill Boy have always had a knack of writing the kind of tunes Brandon Flowers would sell his own grandmother for. Tonight they’re a perfectly sheened indie-pop powerhouse and it becomes clear they will spend this year hammering on the doors of the charts, especially given the reception the likes of ‘Suzie’ and newbie ‘Back Again’ receive.
There’s a quick breather for some eerie Ennio Morricone to set the scene, then the crowd roars. A sign comes up that says “Hard-Fi In Opera”. For a moment we joyously contemplate watching Richard Archer unleash some ludicrous Pavarotti-sized wails while his band ice-skate around him. But alas, we’re standing behind a ruddy big pole and it actually says “Hard-Fi In Operation”. Still, the English National Opera’s loss is our gain, as Hammersmith prepares to forsake their larynxes for the Hard-Fi cause.
It was The Clash who immortalised this venue and it’s The Clash who singer Richard Archer seems most indebted to tonight, with spacey dub-reggae (including their now-customary cover of ‘Seven Nation Army’) and a snarling version of ‘Better Do Better’. “This is for everyone who’s had their heart broken by a fucking waste of space,” says Richard, beforehand. And to think we’re only two hours from Valentine’s Day.
It’s ‘Tied Up Too Tight’ that really turns the place into a football terrace, though, while the lyrics to ‘Hard To Beat’ get a sly reworking to address the rumours that Archer’s dating Scarlett Johansson, with the indie sex symbol singing, “Have you heard the latest?/Boy in a band dates Hollywood actress”. “Who’s from Staines?” shouts Richard at one point. The answer leaves Hammersmith with acute tinnitus. It also leaves NME thinking, “Hang on, you can’t all be from Staines!” But right now, we’re too busy enjoying the party to pick at the details.
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