Amsterdam Melkweg

Long may his brand expand.

Expanding the brand – that’s what wanky marketing men and New Labour strategists call it. Sticking the imprint of a successful venture onto other products in the hope of its ‘personality’ rubbing off and hoodwinking loyal customers. It’s a notion which, alas, doesn’t always work. Look at Virgin Trains. Or a decade of underachieving New Order side projects.

Monaco probably have more New Order DNA in them than other spin-off bands – Peter Hook‘s bass sound, after all, [I]is [/I]New Order – but this thinly attended reception in Amsterdam speaks volumes about the unique chemistry of great bands, and the grudging affection afforded their bastard offspring. The atmosphere is lukewarm. Fortunately, Captain Hook has brought his own, and he fully intends to rock.

It’s more of a Hooky show this time around. David Potts shares the workload, but it’s very much a father-and-son deal, with the walrus-voiced Ollie Reed of disco-metal in charge – dispensing deadpan insults and wielding his mighty bass like a ceremonial sword. The bulk of this set features gruff Hookster vocals, from brooding oldie ‘Tender’ to brooding newie ‘A Life Apart’, and from anthemic, club-friendly oldie ‘What Do You Want From Me’ to anthemic, club-friendly newie ‘Seesaw’. The latter is Monaco‘s largely successful attempt to make euphoric trance sound grimy and lascivious, and features the killer punch line, “Put a smile back on my face/All back to my place”.

Pottsy has the smoother pop voice which he demonstrates on sweet new guitar gushers like ‘Kashmere’ and ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’. But his uncanny pastiche of Bernard Sumner‘s vocal style does both singers a disservice. Pottsy has the edge in technical competence, but his listless croon lacks Barney‘s prickly passion.

It’s perhaps why Monaco are most themselves when Old Man Hook weighs in with his Gruffo The Sheepdog growls, as on melodic bruiser ‘It’s A Boy’ – essentially New Order‘s ‘Run’ sung by Manchester’s answer to Johnny Cash.

The Monaco brand will probably always be perceived as the EasyJet to New Order‘s Virgin Atlantic, but partly because Hook is a victim of his own success. Yet regardless of lineage or limitations, at the heart of Monaco lies an unquenchable exuberance which transcends critical sniping. Hooky doesn’t [I]need[/I] this aggravation, after all. He’s clearly getting off on Monaco big time, but you’re invited along for the ride. Because it’s hard, in the end, to resent a veteran disco-metal monster’s boyish enthusiasm. Long may his brand expand.