Echoboy - Manchester Academy 2 - 1.11.02

To look at him here on stage supporting Puressence at their hometown gig, Echoboy's mastermind Richard Warren is nothing special. He has none of the iconic rockstar looks of Cobain, Bolan or Lennon. To the general public he's just one of the ordinary folks except he's the one on stage. The truth is that Richard Warren is a musical genius and anybody who has watched his journey from the early days of Echoboy (we'll forget his time in the Hybirds for the sake of this very point) to the present day would surely agree.  Currently cruising through his new found love of pop he set out with the mission that he would make a pop record which brought together his love of early Madonna with german electronic pioneers Neu and mixed everything else in between. What were left with is "Giraffe" - an album which is pop in the traditional sense and at the same time as sounding totally contemporary it's pop head is certainly more New Order and "Thriller" era Michael Jackson than S Club Juniors and Gareth Gates.

The main worry is that Echoboy's unpredictable live shows (which previously saw the band hooking up guitar effects pedals to the drum kit and setting them off randomly throughout each song) would suffer, yet as someone who saw the bands shows supporting Simian a few months ago and then again on the Puressence tour there is still that element of experimentation albeit in a more restrained sense. Cranking up the volume to 11 for the last night of the tour each song is filtered through high energy camp disco filters with Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" being as much an influence as New Order's "Blue Monday". "Automatic Eyes", which is the best song New Order never wrote, "Comfort In The Hum" manages to match the beat of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" with what can only be described as the sound of Nazi's goose-stepping at the same time as a free falling piano motif is rolled out. Even the most alternative moment "Don't Destroy Me" with a spoken word intro for nearly 2 minutes is backed with a full on four to the floor beat and a spiralling guitar melody from Richard and his most open and honest lyrics "Don't destroy me, I'll take cover".

At a time when everybody is concerned with style over substance, it's a refreshing change to see a band concerned with making making truly inventive pop music. In a just world it would be Echoboy remixing the likes of Kylie instead of Fischerspooner, but with Moby proclaiming to the world that Echoboy's "Giraffe" album is his favourite album it won't be long before Richard Warren finally joins the premier league.

Alex McCann

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