El Presidente / The Upper Room / Flying Matchstick Men
Manchester Academy 3 - 6.1.05
few days after Smash Hits magazine announced its closure and signalled
the death of pop, tonight took us back to a time where pop music
in all it's glorious form ruled the airways and then journo and
popstar in waiting Neil Tennant observed archly over the latest
vinyl releases to arrive on his desk before spewing out ad infinitum
prose on Oscar Wilde and the importance that he's played on pop
since Little Richard and David Bowie. Tonight proved that pop
in it's non manufactured form is much more edifying than the paltry
offerings from indie bands and you only have to look at the difference
between this line-up and the one dimensional NME line-up a few
nights previous to realize there's more to life than Franz Ferdinand,
The Libertines and a few off-cuts from Mike Skinner...or maybe
not if you're the Arctic Monkeys
Matchstick Men are the latest in the lineage of great Scottish
bands which take in El Presidente and The Hussy's to name just
two. Imagine if the Human League were taken to Glasgow, shown
around crackdens by Irvine Welsh while having the same politically
incorrect humour as the YY28s. As we walk in the venue a gaggle
of teenage girls wait at the front bemused by this raggle taggle
bunch that look like the cast of Chewing The Fat trespassing on
a CBBC set, "It's like having my own fanclub, except you're
all here for El Presidente" he announces before launching
into the uber-pop anthem "Duvet".
they announce their new single "All Your Secrets" as
a song "about dirty paedo's who sh*g kids till they bleed"
the kids stop laughing, the adults snigger quietly like that time
when a kid rang up Sarah Greene on live TV and asked Five Star
why they were so shit. It's everything pop should be - anarchic,
fun and as drug induced as the Magic Roundabout - and with tunes
like "If You Want" and "Ghost Stories Plaza"
they have the tunes to back it all up. So remember Red Matchstick,
Yellow Matchstick, Blue Matchstick, Green Matchstick, oh and the
gay one that sh*gs kids....and don't forget take drugs and forget
everything that Zammo said.
When The Upper Room arrive on stage it seems they've had
a fall out with Danny Baker, because the pristine Daz White attire
we've become accustomed to over the past few months have been
replaced with Top Shop casuals by their stylists. Looking like
posh totty who would be as much accustomed to playing Rugger with
Prince William as rehearsing in some grotty rehearsal room, the
band have built up a steady swelling of fans through previous
tours with El Pres and Rooster and as we speak you can't avoid
video for "All Over This Town" on the Box.
quick glance on google reveals The Upper Room listed as various
christian groups for salvation, but this Upper Room offers a different
kind of salvation, a musical salvation where Morrissey is god
and Preston from the Ordinary Boys has been written out of the
2nd edition as a lame impostor. "Kill Kill Kill" directly
steal from The Smiths "Girlfriend In A Coma", "Her
Alibi" could have easily have been off any of Mozzer's solo
albums while "Your Body" adds a touch of New Order style
disco to the proceedings Within a few short months The Upper Room
could just be band on everyone's lips and provide the missing
link between Morrissey, The Editors and the upper aeons of the
Designer Magazine first saw El Presidente last April on the MTV
Spanking Brand New show in Manchester and the greatest tragedy
is that while the indie bands such as The Kooks and Editors have
gone onto huge success, El Pres have been struggling to gain momentum,
but this national tour is proof that the good will out. Back home
in their native Scotland the band are on constant rotation on
XFM, the tabloids frothing over them like the Arctic Monkeys never
happened and they're considered as much a part of Scotland's musical
legacy as Orange Juice, The Proclaimers and Franz Ferdinand.
it wasn't enough that last year they opened up for Kasabian, and
to be frank p*ssed on them from a great height, they've decided
to raise the bar and compete with their own personal heroes. What's
immediately apparent from the moment guitar god Johnny McGlynn
walks on stage, ringing out walls and walls of feedback as he
tears through riff after riff imitating Jimi Hendrix, is how much
the band have improved as an all encompassing rock band. Sure,
the album is a fine document of some of the best songs ever written
in the past 20 years, but as a live band they outstretch the realms
of pop, rock, funk and soul and place it into a fusion which never
once seems contrived, forced or in any way other than natural.
the lead ringer and songwriter, looks like a lothario that should
be solving crimes on an unmade Italian version of Cracker, Thomas
McNeice on bass, has an exotic silent alluring appeal about him
and the ample charms of Laura and Dawn ensure that El Presidente
are the sexiest band around.
not just the singles that shine tonight. "Honey" with
it's cold electronic aura is beefed up to an industrial rock song
with haunting strings. It's probably the most anti-pop moment
since Marilyn Manson took on a cover of "Tainted Love".
"I Didn't Really" sounds like the Rainbow theme tune
put through a doowop blender, while "Old Times" is the
Polyphonic Spree with no need for a choir as the audience more
than make up for.
the best for last they leave the stage with a run through their
singles to date including "Without You", which Dante
hated and never wanted to record until he saw the reaction the
fans gave it, the glam rock stomp of "100mph" and "Rocket"
and the brand new single "Turn This Thing Around", which
will be covered time and time again in years to come. That they
can stand up to cover versions of Prince's "Raspberry Beret"
and the set closer, Pulp's "Common People" is testament
to the genius of El Presidente.
El Presidente need to do now is release a live DVD so they can
convince the rest of the world what a storming live band they
are and then comeback with a second album that yet again stands
tall against the competition.
Photos: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com
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THE UPPER ROOM