The city of London bows down to the sounds of 1960, 1977 and 2038
It is 1am, and the end of a messy, booze-sodden night. Underfoot, plastic glasses crunch, while in the pit a heavily sozzled girl attempts to light the wrong end of her fag. Onstage, The Enemy are seeing off the evening by soaking up the last of the masses’ Easter Weekend enthusiasm and flinging it right back at them, hard. “Let’s have it, proper,” foetal frontman Tom Clarke snarls. “This is our last song, so it’d be fookin’ great if you could all go fookin’ wild.” Brixton obliges, vaguely terrified. Righteous fury is the only language The Enemy communicate in: a series of Jam-steeped blasts of punk rock. From the McJob-baiting ‘Away From Here’ to the sneering acceleration of ‘It’s Not OK’, these boys are seriously fuming.
The Enemy are so bareknuckle stripped-down that they could have arrived here cryogenically frozen since 1977. Tonight, in a series of quantum leaps through rock’s ages, we have come to their Year Zero guitar brutalism via a bunch of antique retro-rockers and a band so ultra-modern that they are suddenly in danger of being dubbed ‘the sound of 2006’.
Only an hour ago, it was 1960 and The Rumble Strips were demonstrating their vintage, brass-warmed rock’n’soul, overtopped by the Beatles-y holler of ‘Handsome’ Charlie Waller. With his scuffed shoes, serially abused acoustic, smattering of tattoos and hungry eyes, Waller looks like he’s just escaped from some ’50s chain gang. Tonight, his jailhouse rocks. The Rumbles are one big ball of magnificent horny bluster; the insistent chug of ‘Alarm Clock’ and the Dexys-drone of ‘Oh Creole’ show us how acoustic instruments can still sound full and red-blooded if smacked like errant children. As set climax ‘Motorcycle’ finds its throttle, a single tom-tom is coated with water then thumped, sending a plume of spray rising cinematically into the air. It’s the sort of hyper-stylised move that doesn’t work unless you have distanced yourselves from the sneerathon that is the early 21st century. The Rumbles have invented their own space in time, and all power to them.
Unusually, though, the most anticipated are first tonight. New Young Pony Club’s signature track ‘Ice Cream’ struts in as the missing link between electroclash and indie dance. Not only is it indicative of what the NYPC do, it also reveals their magpie eye for genre larceny. Newie ‘MAN’, for instance, is an R&B groove, taking lessons from the billowy mid-’90s: the harmony-heavy sound of Eternal or Bobby Brown. It is, claims frontwoman Tahita Bulmer, “a song for people who like indie songs that don’t sound like indie songs. You can dance to it, potentially pull to it.” Add to this the ragga tip of ‘Revolution In The Bedroom’ – a song that somehow filters Midi Maxi & Efti through the new millennium (yes, precisely…), plus the OMD OD of ‘The Bomb’, and what you have is something vaguely terrifying in its eclecticism. A daytime radio brew from days no-one thought sensible to revive.
It’s a night stacked with plunder-heavy futuro-pop, as the crowd’s rapture demonstrates. Long may they continue going back to the future.