London Camden Monarch

...there's a fine line between nonsense and brilliance...

As anyone who’s ever seen student comedy will tell you, there’s a fine line between nonsense and brilliance. Annoying your audience might be a sure-fire way to get their attention, but it usually ends in tears.

So far, everything’s going well for Sheffield’s [a]Action Spectacular[/a]. Despite (or maybe because of) being a bunch of blokes signed to a teeny-tiny indie label, they’ve become a staple on Xfm, and even reached the dizzy heights of playing the second stage at the recent Reading/Leeds festivals. Tonight, they’ve even managed to pull in paying fans – not just Camden’s guest list royalty – to their gig.

But they’re still not quite sure what they want to be. The urge to be a novelty sideshow remembered as much for their witticisms between songs as the tunes themselves can be overwhelming thanks to singer Jim Muir‘s obvious, tedious desperation to get a laugh. Like a cherubic Jarvis Cocker, he tells us self-consciously, “We’re the new Menswear. Except better looking.” Like the sharp suits and ridiculous joke-shop glasses all five of them are wearing, it’s an unnecessary distraction from what really counts.

[a]Action Spectacular[/a] don’t need all the frills, because their songs are worthy of attention on their own merit. Though last single ‘Music In The Sun’ starts off with all-too-chirpy bird song, it plods gently into a blissful, laid-back afternoon with Badly Drawn Boy, while in ‘General Lee’ Jim‘s husky, mellow vocals sound like Gomez‘s Ben Ottewell singing Beck. It’s the perfect sound of summer days with nothing to do. And there’s even a glimmer of something more special than that.

Beneath the good-time laziness, there’s an occasionally brilliant lyricist at work. In ‘Half Empty Bottle’, the air of off-hand regret is something Morrissey would be proud of. It says far more than any wacky gimmick. It says [a]Action Spectacular[/a] are something worth taking seriously. If only the band could make it easier for us to do that.

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