So it’s awards season again, and with the NME Awards making the Brits look more alternative than Britney doing gabba, it’s up to Red Stripe to revolutionise recognising unsigned talent (despite ignoring last year’s finalists, our resplendent Rosie and the Goldbug, in favour of another identikit guitar band). Kicking off the first of Cornwall’s three heats is The UPS, four skinny young chaps in full uniform (Topman’s Winter collection) with a nice line in explosive drumming. However, they let themselves down with the other members’ failure to concentrate on the job in hand, instead remembering to don one’s all-important white Wayfarers mid-set. All stuttering guitar and drums, most of their repertoire bombed with weak verses, and generic football terrace “oh-oh-oh-ing” about that much-mooted cliché, “reality”.
Less on-trend of disposition, Nervosa take to the stage, looking promisingly like a supergroup made up of Lemmy Motorhead, one of Arcade Fire and Glass Shark. However, they disappoint with their rankling, dated mid-90s rock sound, often evoking the hairy soul of Nickelback. To give credit where it’s due, they were significantly tighter than The UPS, but in no way comparable to their stage successor.
“Now for some fopp rock,” purrs the dandyish Andrew Bate, with the first sign of any charisma or real presence of the evening. Since first appearing two years ago, Andrew has developed remarkably, crafting an enigmatic, seemingly innocent onstage persona, and lending his songs a sweeping tonal grace akin to Radiohead’s acoustic moments. The rhythm section led by his waltzing eyebrows, ‘Trust’ writes the evening’s most thoughtful lyrics (although the competition’s not hard when up against nonsensical trend-chasing tales of reality).
Unfortunately, the embers of Andrew’s set are soon stomped on by the boisterous, hardcore Disco Pip, whose set was hampered by the presence of a great big Gaye albatross, and their every song ending in a crashing sonic wall of oblivion. However final song, “Even the Brake” was undeniably satisfying, all synthetic sirens and visceral yowls, erasing all memory of the one-chord wonders they played previously.
It’s hard not to take the bait in Tom Pitts’ opening statement – “Hello, I’m The Pitts” - especially when his first number sounds like a male Kate Nash with terminal screaming PMT, followed by an appalling cover of Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”, which, like the rest of his set, attempts to be ramshackle and twee, but just comes off as unadulterated tosh. There might have been a certain charm lingering in his profusely perspiring nerves, but certainly not the addictive allure of the Moldy Peaches, Bill Bailey, or any other comedy acoustic troubadours.
Thank goodness then, for My Elvis Blackout, who despite a year away from the scene, are razor sharp of wit and shirts, without a dated note in their ‘50s surf-rock heavy set. Their thumping, swaggering sonic beast would leave the Cloverfield monster pleading for mercy, and they’re the only band tonight to whip the crowd into mid-song whoops of joy. Old favourite “Elsie Elsie” rears its head, steaming with pheromones and the scent of sticky young lust. Set-closer “Back In The Food Chain”, with its bullish feudal lyrics, sent a message to all the young pretenders to their throne, but it’s not one to be printed here...