The Cribs/The Automatic/Giant Drag/The Long Blondes: Astoria, London, Sunday, February 19
Style, spirit, sex appeal and speedball guitars… they’re all on show tonight. Oh, and a shed-load of damn good songs too
Being raw and raucous showcases of new talent, the ShockWaves NME Award Shows are not for the faint of heart. Tonight is no exception, with the promise of four of the most aggressively-fuzzy and stylish rock’n’roll bands around peddling their wares.
Sheffield’s The Long Blondes are first up, with their seductive blend of punk-rock pop and Marlene Dietrich-meets-rockabilly chic. Unlike fellow New Yorkshire-ites Arctic Monkeys, the Blondes are a tad gentler on the optical nerves – singer Kate Jackson being this season’s latest fashion icon. As sultry frontwomen go, she has the arrogant strut of Chrissie Hynde and the acidic tongue of a Dickens heroine; ‘Different Strategies’ has the ability to entice vulnerable indie boys only to spit them out with utter venom.
Not to be outdone in the acrimony stakes, Orange County’s Giant Drag pull no punches either. “This is a song about my ex-boyfriend from eight years ago. He stole this song from me and then got really famous,” jokes Annie Hardy before ripping into Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ with such a grandiose and expansive sound that it beggars belief. But it’s not all doom and cover versions. The unique ‘You Fuck Like My Dad’ brings a smirk to many a face, while an element of utter euphoria grips tonight’s crowd during ‘Kevin Is Gay’, a song laced with grungey guitar riffs and aching Tanya Donelly-esque vocals.
Cardiff’s The Automatic up the ante even further and provide an aural kick in the teeth. From the start it’s clear that synth-wielder Alex Pennie is having the time of his life as he gyrates his hips and demonstrates how one ought to practice drum gymnastics. Recent single ‘Recover’ surprisingly receives the biggest roar of approval and inspires the first of many crowd-surfing casualties.
Not long after their departure, a buzz of hushed excitement washes over the Astoria, as the crest of Jarman is unveiled in between an array of glitterballs, signalling the arrival of Wakefield’s most auspicious brothers. They may have gained the Peel seal of approval back in the day, but The Cribs have been heinously underrated since the release of their debut. Tonight, the trio set right such wrongs by storming through a string of old and new songs such as ‘Mirror Kissers’, ‘You & I’ and recent hit ‘Hey Scenesters!’, fusing Dinosaur Jr riffs with raucous pop sensibilities. As Gary and Ryan both yelp, “I know that will change/When it’s cool to be an outsider” on ‘I’m Alright Me’, it appears as if The Cribs’ luck is looking up – the Astoria has become a frenzied mass of over-exuberant youths. The set culminates with Ryan ripping off his T-shirt and raging into the crowd like a bull seeing red, only to be thrown back onstage by fans itching for an encore that is sadly denied them. It’s probably for the best – tonight we’ve had all the excitement our faint hearts can take.