It's the UK versus America...
[a]Willy Mason[/a] is up first, batting for the US. Backed by the [a]22-20s[/a], his bedroom Beck meets dimestore Dylan bojangle immediately reduces the early birds to hushed silence. Why a 20-year-old would actually want to write music as mournfully fluorescent as ‘Oxygen’ – delivered in a stunning, solo setting tonight – remains unanswered, but his share of the ringtone download market must be minute. What is sure is that Willy Mason’s time at the bottom of the bill is over as of right now.
The Bravery may just be the most perfectly constructed group in the world today. Clock their crazy hair, their loose-spined Ramones poses and their mania for leaping from blowsy U2 arena dynamics, to grumpy Cure-esque melody, to actual widdly-widdly Iron Maiden-a-like guitar solos to gimped-out synth boogie. A huge part of me screams, “Hang on a minute! Surely this is a piss-take!” and has to battle the other part that goes, “What’s wrong with the Ramones doing ‘Run To The Hills’ while dressed as Depeche Mode?” And, however all over the shop their set might be, ‘An Honest Mistake’ is a brilliant pop song.
Sons And Daughters’ fiddle-diddle cowpunk and O Brother Where Art Thou?-goes-to-Vegas stage clothes suggest an obsession with Americana and the records of Bo Diddley, so it’s only natural they’re from Scotland. It’s a fairly difficult leap into the wraith-like atmospheria of S&D after The Bravery’s pungent synth-punk, but the raw romanticism of recent single ‘Johnny Cash’ casts powerfully smoky, blood-red shadows across the room.
The minute HOTS appear, they drop their heads and tear into the vast, hair-shaking racket of ‘Black Amnesias’ and proceed to freak out ever further. ‘Enemies/Friends’ – love those visuals – is so heavy the balcony sags, while new songs like ‘The Good Fight’ point to a place where blown-mind experimentalism meets creative psychosis, a peculiarly – and brilliantly – English perversion that has thrown up bands as wonderful and ridiculous as Hawkwind and Spiritualized. HOTS encore brutally with ‘Drinkers On The Dry’ and ‘Static Cities’ before leaving to pulsating feedback. It’s a knockout. We have a winner.