Koko, London Wednesday February 17
Eight bars into [a]The Cheek[/a]’s opening song Rory Cottam tornadoes onto the stage – necklace and gospel singer-style handclaps flying around a great haircut and deadpan face. Joe Lean, there’s still hope for you to make a buck or two: take The Cheek to court and sue them senseless. Now major label property, in what seems like a teen flick geek-to-prom-king makeover plot, the Suffolk fivesome have snipped off half their name and the Young Knives-y gawky-guitar pop that went with it. With new songs such as [b]‘What Goes On’[/b], a scraggier cousin of [a]Blur[/a]’s [b]‘Beetlebum’[/b], they finally seem set to go places.
Woolly hats, oversized jumpers and hands stuffed in pockets: there’s no pretension for [a]The Soft Pack[/a]. They’re also not really busting a gut trying to win back any of the buzz that might have dissipated during the long wait for their debut album. Instead, they roll out casual harmonies, minimal movement and sarcastic banter: “We just found out backstage that this song’s gone to Number One in the US,” smirks Matt Lamkin, making fun of their underground status, before sliding into a woozy [b]‘Answer To Yourself’[/b]. With songs like this and the Strokesian slurs of [b]‘Extinction’[/b], we wouldn’t care if they were singing in their sleep.
But with constant audience chants muffling these two support sets, not to mention the ‘Ficek Forever’ and “gehht’cha plastic rosary beads here” merch stalls that are blanketing Camden High Street, tonight belongs to [a]Babyshambles[/a]. “And the winner of Best Opening Track is…” Pete declares upon entering the stage, bang on time, “[b]‘Delivery’[/b].” With Mik Whitnall and Drew McConnell dressed accordingly in suits and ties, they hurl into the first glitch-free song of the night, immediately prompting a wave of ‘Save Pete’ T-shirted torsos to fly across the venue.
The room is only stilled when, bizarrely, [b]‘There She Goes (A Little Heartache)’[/b] is accompanied by two ballerinas prancing about in gold tutus, out of sync to Drew’s ‘The Lovecats’-esque bassline.
At times the set is in danger of being a tad routine – they have been playing songs from the same two albums for years now. However, a selection of promising new third album contenders, including the Clash-esque [b]‘Fireman’[/b] and big chord belter [b]‘Farmer’s Son’[/b], restoke any lost excitement. With the tip of a hat and a wave of a Union Jack handkerchief, Pete surveys the scene of bloody carnage left by closer [b]‘Fuck Forever’[/b];
a job well done.