The Voyeurs – ‘Rhubarb Rhubarb’

Charlie Boyer's band shorten their name, ditch the CBGB obsession and find inspiration back home

“That’s what happens if you like someone enough,” Charlie Boyer admitted to NME in January 2013. “You start to look like them.” For months, he’d been telling everyone how much he loved Tom Verlaine, frontman of NYC proto-punks Television. But he didn’t just want to sound like him; Boyer, with his lank hair and gaunt cheekbones, had morphed into a dead ringer for Verlaine, too.

That was the rub with Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs: the greatest lookalikey is never the same as the real thing. Their debut album, ‘Clarietta’, was almost too perfect a copy of a scuzzy guitar band from New York circa 1975; a record splattered with the sleaze of CBGB, but not quite the heart. For the follow-up, they’ve rebranded themselves as simply The Voyeurs, but that’s not the biggest change. They’ve swapped fake dreams of the Big Apple for something closer to home, a collection of songs teeming with characters that share the same postcode as them.

Take the colloquialisms of ‘Pete The Pugilist’, the tale of a scary prizefighter. “He’s not your friend/It’s time to leave”, warns Boyer, with his hiccupping yelp, over stop-start guitars and woozy fairground noise. Or ‘The Smiling Loon’, which starts with a madcap squall before spluttering into a trippy organ riff, and its titular bully (“Did he break your thumbs/For having fun?”). ‘Rhubarb Rhubarb’’s title is a reference to the phrase uttered by actors onstage to generate background noise, but these stories aren’t just meaningless chit-chat; they’re the some of the most vibrant Boyer has sketched yet.

It’s still clear that The Voyeurs aren’t reinventing the wheel. But they’ve greased it with enough fun that it scarcely matters: ‘Train To Minsk’ comes on like a scuzzy cousin of The Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’, with its murky riffs and yobbish yells of “Go! Go!”; ‘Damp Walls’ is helter-skelter punk with demented organs; and ‘Rhubarb Rhubarb’ is a shimmering beast with giant scrapes of guitar. Sure, it’s swell to look like your heroes, but The Voyeurs are starting to finally look like themselves. It’s a far better sight.