Live Review: Modular Party
None-more-cool Aussie label’s showcase proves they know their musical history. Coronet, London Saturday, March 14
It’s midnight and the Coronet is still only half full. Down the front B-boys, girls in fake glasses and Ladyhawke anticipate Modular’s latest signing, Tame Impala. It’s an anomalous start for the label’s second Nevereverland shindig: a band of barefoot Antipodeans playing brain-melting psychedelia that alternates between Cream and, er, Cream to a crowd who’ve come for electro. Lank-haired frontman Kevin Parker spearheads Vorticist wig-outs that would be deemed self-indulgent by ‘Second Coming’-era John Squire as ‘Half Full Glass Of Wine’ renders the brutalist environs of Elephant & Castle in soft focus.
The incongruity is heightened by the guitarist’s decision to sit down during a cover of Blueboy’s ‘Remember Me’. The effect is less Woodstock ’69 and more student union ’99 but, somehow, it works. Continuing the sepia-tinted theme are NYC’s The Golden Filter. The midpoint between Yazoo and Lindstrøm, analogue arpeggios tickle the synapses as Penelope, the gold-socked, surname-deficient frontwoman launches into The White Stripes’ ‘The Hardest Button To Button’. Its Moroder makeover is imbued with such try-hard coolness you can feel the inverted commas hanging in the air. But it’s the ’80s strut of ‘Favourite Things’ that gets the crowd on their side as effervescent keyboards emanate from a MacBook.
You know it’s 2009 when a blonde Brooklynite sings “Vintage dresses/Vodka, whisky/Paris, London/These are a few of my favourite things” like a hipster Connie Fisher, an Urban Outfitters pendant hanging over her heart. You know it’s March 2009 when Gavin & Stacey’s Mat Horne mans the decks directly after. It’s up to electro godfather MC Afrika Bambaataa to lend the night a bit of historical gravitas. We know this because he keeps telling us. Eschewing his famous robes, Bam looks like an elder statesman of pirate radio, his baseball-capped bonce bouncing as he offers hip-hop, electro, Miami Bass and synth-pop with Proustian fluidity. A module for those whose idea of music history is the Skins soundtrack, the sheet metal synths of ‘Planet Rock’ still have a way of setting your fillings on edge and your brain on fire. A timely reminder that when it comes to retro, the originals do it better.