Twangly Jangly Time Tunnel
Written By Ria Wilkinson Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
The Lazy Darlings, The Crookes and Swimwear Juniors at Cockpit 3, Leeds
It’s a Friday night and we are stood upstairs in room titled “Cockpit 3” – an intimate venue with the stage squeezed into the corner of a room reminiscent of bomb shelter. A curved, metal lined ceiling can cause potential havoc for particularly tall band members which was not an issue for the delightfully diminutive Laura Groves who performed here pre-Blue Roses and no doubt many other up-and-coming acts over the years.
Leeds based trio The Lazy Darlings take to the stage and quickly establish they know what they’re doing with their sound. It’s a fusion of the twangly with the jangly.
The simplicity of guitar, bass and drums is occasionally spiced up with some harmonica that enhances the county or blues influence over some of their tracks that are mostly routed into the original ‘90s indie sound. A particular stand out track is Lover, Come In – with vocal stylings and lyrics that Graham Coxon would happily swipe for himself.
The creative centre of Lazy Darlings is Dave James, a veteran of the Leeds music scene and the continuity of the band’s line up. He crafts considered, and often uplifting songs that treat the ears by not having a monotonous rhythm. He is joined by relatively new recruit, a Texan called Rod Castro on bass who uses his exotic drawl to attempt to lure people upstairs to further populate the audience.
Rod is also responsible for manning the video loop backdrops that are projected during the songs that give The Lazy Darlings an audiovisual style that is more memorable than most similar acts of their size. The projections add to the music without overpowering or distracting from it.
The Lazy Darlings are too lazy to mention they have an EP out - Life Is Easy - and on which the eponymous track and some others are sprinkled with some female backing vocals reminiscent of Throwing Muse Tanya Donnelly - further rooting their sound into the 90s indie. The Lazy Darlings produce an aurally easy going noise that I’d describe as laid back, not lazy, for there is effort being made here.
Suddenly we are zipped through the time tunnel to the 1950s. Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley and Bill Haley are alive and well and have all just graduated from Sheffield University. Not really, but close your eyes and you can certainly hear their influences alive and kicking inside the youngsters who take to the stage in front of twelve people.
Open your eyes and you will see in the sharp 15 minutes stage turnaround time, we are now suddenly inside the kind of British bedsit Morrissey would dream of. There is worse-for-wear portrait of a youthful Queen Elizabeth, a Lowry print propped up on the amps and a couple of table lamps warm the underlit stage. A small battered suitcase customised with tape spells the name of the act on stage – The Crookes.
Named after the student area of Sheffield where they resided and met, The Crookes are a very fresh faced group of four. They were recently lauded with high praise from Steve Lamacq on BBC radio 6Music as “definitely one of my top three unsigned acts in the UK today”. Lamacq knows his musical onions.
This is their first visit to play Leeds. Their attention to detail includes dressing in the style of clean cut boys of the era – buttoned up plaid shirts, trousers a little short to show off their moccasins, etc. However, the bassist has a quiff that droops into his eyes – clearly the sign of a potential ‘50s bad boy – and sure enough it is he that starts proceedings with some finger clicking as he launches into his croon.
Half an hour later we have been treated to some ukulele and banjo in addition to the nostalgic sound of guitar drenched in moody reverb, not forgetting some energetic “legs in braces” dancing. The set is over and songs such Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians, A Collier’s Wife and Backstreet Lovers will linger as we digest the erudite and imaginative lyrics. Perhaps if Bobby, Bill and Buddy had just graduated in English Literature, they may have had lyrics like this. Elvis? He studied Geography...
The night ends with the interestingly monikered Swimwear Juniors. Immediately you can hear there is something “good” about them. That sort of initial gut feeling that this set promises to be of a quality that sets them a bit apart from the hubbub of regionally sourced music. However it’s too early in the set to put your finger on the exact words to yet describe how they are better than average. The vocals of Oliver don’t always “fit” with the music but are spit out Los Camposinos style like breathless notes from diaries hurried to the beat.
The third song in and people are turning to each other nodding and simultaneously mouthing “this is good”. However, soon after that the crowd becomes a bit distracted by the giving out of luminous wrist bands (woo!) and shortly after, free vodka samples.
However, you can’t ignore music which is as well crafted as this. There is something thoughtfully folkish, a leaning towards, say, Noah and The Whale but Swimwear Juniors are navigating more into their own waters than following in the wake of others. They too have an EP out (eponymously titled I believe) but fail to mention this at the time. I go and ask them if they have a cd (The Lazy Darlings came prepared with sample cds to give out) but sadly they have not. This is a shame because there is relatively little of them about on the internet to listen to – their mySpace has only three tracks on, one of which is a Radio 1 jingle. I am even unable to determine where they are from – I assume somewhere Yorkshire – and therefore kick myself I didn’t ask when enquiring of a cd.
In short, for a hard earned £5 entry, tonight has yielded three acts that are really worth seeing again for their own individual merits. Steve Lamacq has indeed pointed us to a new band breaking the current musical mold in the form of The Crookes and in return we’d like to offer him Swimwear Juniors. And so our journey through the Twangly Jangly Time Tunnel finally deposits us back into the damp Leeds evening.
Written By Ria Wilkinson Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
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