St Pancras Old Church, London, August 3rd
We are gathered here this evening to witness the birth of [b]‘Life In Monochrome’[/b],” reads a rather austere looking hymn-sheet, stuffed down the back of the pews of this ornate old church behind King’s Cross Station. Accordingly, the congregation awkwardly shuffling in through incensed gloom to see [a]Mystery Jets[/a] bassist [a]Kai Fish[/a]’s inaugural showcase of his solo LP could be forgiven for thinking they’re in for a rather po-faced affair.
The sound of clinking beer bottles is conspicuous by its absence; over the stage hangs a stern portrait of Christ nailed to the cross, circled by ravenous vultures. Put it like this: we’re a long way from those nefarious parties and police raids that became synonymous with his alma mater back on their Eel Pie Island home.
Yet tonight isn’t about dry, dusty sermons. Fish may have penned [a]Mystery Jets[/a] tracks before, and crafted the odd song for the likes of [a]Mark Ronson[/a], but this is his project – a big ol’ swooning record written in between the death of one relationship and the birth of another, capturing that jumbled state of mind that lies betwixt heartbreak and head-over-heels slushiness. Despite the presence of his nine-piece backing band, this is his spotlight, and opening track [b]‘Erasing The Young’[/b] his manifesto.
“[i]I’m close to tears most of the time recently/Since I discovered I didn’t have the heart[/i]”, he croons over rickety acoustic guitar and gossamer-thin strings before – WHOMP – the drums rifle in, and everything is drenched in reverb.
There’s something quaintly charming about Fish’s anxious peering from the stage and his unashamedly soppy heft. [b]‘Dig Your Own Well’[/b] is an ode to love gone wrong that’s wrapped up in punch-drunk fuzz, while the red-eyed acoustic ditty ushering in the beginning of [b]‘Cobalt Cheeks’[/b] soon mutates into scraped and scarred electric guitars.
But it’s [b]‘My Amina’[/b] that’s the most stinging of all the tear-jerkers as Fish insists, “[i]There’s nothing I can do/ I just have to be with you[/i]”, pushing his voice into a falsetto atop the dreamy piano swirls. What Fish may lack for now is the requisite shamanistic chops of a frontman – he attempts a knee shimmy during [b]‘Homerton Baby’[/b] that’s less Elvis-and-his-gyrating-hips and more arthritic-pensioner-struggling-with-heavy-shopping – but tonight, it scarcely matters.
Closing track [b]‘Crystal Curtains’[/b] sees the audience rise from their chairs, indulging in the type of ‘whoop’-ing that’s seldom associated with stuffy trips to the church clad in your Sunday best. When you can preach from the pulpit with such lachrymose mastery, there’s no need to fret over any baptism of fire.