Funny Face, Zoo Zero plus The Pale Blue Eyes

I went to The Good Ship in Kilburn last night, “a pub, bar, club transmogrification”, mainly to see The Pale Blue Eyes, but came away having enjoyed three excellent bands in a very promising venue, which provided a great space for them to play from, the possibility of multimedia backdrops, and a quality sound.  They have a capacity that can flex between 160 and 240, and I hope they start to get those sort of crowds in – the venue deserves it, and these bands deserved it on the performances I witnessed.
The Pale Blue Eyes come from Aylesbury, not far from where I live, and that is how I had heard about them and decided to come along to this gig.  The tracks they have up on their MySpace profile sound very promising, and they already have a debut album under their belts, so I was looking forward to catching them live – they did not disappoint.  The stage is within a sunken part of the venue, so you can either stand down there with the band, or look down on them from various balcony points – it’s a wonderful, different setting.  By The Way I Found, like all the tracks they played, is off their debut album, Where Fools Should Go, and gives a fine introduction to the band.  Thomas Harris plays a haunting intro on his 12-string electric guitar, Jason Attridge kicks in with the drums, very ably supported by Jimmy Marvin’s bass, and as the pace picks up we get the Americana soul in Petar Kosanovic’s strong vocals, and behind all this the percussion from Gareth Rees.  It’s a sublime sound they generate.  Coming Down is a hard edged ballad which drifts and floats, some earthy vocals, reminding me of the less ‘pop’ moments of U2’s The Joshua Tree.  Where Am I has a higher tempo start, more melodic, before we are hit with a wall of noise from the guitars.  It’s gritty, rocking, and driven along by an excellent rhythm from the drums, bass and percussion.  Thomas is having some issues with feedback, “I’m having some technical difficulties, but it sounds pretty good”, and it does, with Their Way even benefitting from the sound, the intro reminiscent of the opening chords from Status Quo’s Pictures Of Matchstick Men, before it rocks away from that down a far heavier vein.  There is no chorus and verse structure here, simply the song as a whole, riding along on a thumping bass line.  Thomas switches to mandolin and produces a more upbeat, quirky sound for Louell, reminding me of the Pogues in some of their less-Irish moments, but it is You Know Its Right which produces the true sound of this band – mellow moments from The Doors, the drama of The Who in the early 70s, dreamy, trippy, guitar-based rock.  It’s the last one of the set, so “we’re going to tear it up a bit”, and they launch into the heavy, deep melodic intro of One Of You, crashing guitar breaks supported by the drums in waves, wonderful sounds from the 12-string as the drums and bass really pick up the pace and drive us on, guitar sounds now flooding over the rhythm, Petar showing himself to have a real presence as a frontman, both on guitar and in his vocals, and in his snake-hips movement.  The album gives a cleaner sound, but you need to experience this in the live environment.  They are next playing on Saturday 21 February at The White Swan in Aylesbury.

Apparently Zoo Zero are very new to gigging, but it did not show at all.  They are listed on their MySpace profile as alternative/rock/experimental, and that is a pretty fair summary of this 3-piece, comprising guitar, bass and drums, and a sound which reaches far beyond that.  First up is Mouchette, the guitar building feedback before launching us into an uptempo melodic track, with hard riffing under the vocals, the bass driving the number on, leaving it to float at times when the bassline drops from the many layers of the song.  Wish Hounds features more guitar breaks, thumping bass, and it’s the drums which are driving us this time through the short, sharp track, the guitar having a psychedelic feel to it.  The sound they are producing almost defies comparison, and Oryx, with its hard, edgy guitar intro, rolling drums, stacatto rhythm, guitar screeches can only make me think of the sound of Half Man Half Biscuit being serious about life, and it goes straight into Fraktion, the pace really picking up on drums and bass, guitar riffs cut in, there are flourishes on the bass sound, guitar soundscapes, drums racing, vocals over the top of it all, the track ready to explode, and it does in a flurry of guitar sounds, it’s Hawkwind, but harder, more of a sharp edge, it keeps building into Stationed, exploding, subsiding, building, there are echoes from Sonic Attack, an early Rush feel to the end of it, especially on the bass sound, and then an arabian feel which takes us to guitar breaks from The Clash.  And thank goodness for New Lagoon, a gentle rocker giving us some respite from the wonderful torrent of the last three tracks, but even here the guitar effects take us to dark places, a spacey feel mixed with edgy guitar breaks, more instrumental, rhythmic, taking on Radiohead at their own game.  They finish with Radical Light, a lighter guitar sound but still with a sinister undertone.  The drums and bass are really solid, allowing the guitar to fly off and do its own thing in a fast paced, hard number.  It builds to almost explode and then dies down to start again, the vocals throwing it upwards, the crescendo sustained this time through to a climax, the song quickly dying to fade to feedback and ends with that dramatic sound reverberating through the venue.  In the true sense of the word, this was an awesome performance.  They play next at Tommy Flynn’s in Camden on 24 February, and then should enjoy the acoustics at 93 Feet East on 3 March.
The headline act tonight are Funny Face, with more of an indie sound than the other two bands, and with “we are f f f f f Funny Face” we are off to a light start, both in terms of atmosphere and sound, with Hedemony fast paced to start before changing to a more stacatto beat, it’s clever and challenging and contains false layers and then a more melodic, uptempo feel, and more changes creating a brilliant tension.  Next up is Fine with its in your face intro, a straight forward attack, breaking into a softer part from the electric guitar, but still with a bite, the drums taking us off again into a blazing guitar solo which leaves us breathless into the end of the track.  Time WIll Waste You Away has an upbeat indie sound with definite throwbacks to the 60s, great drum and bass rhythm, forceful vocals and a real edge to the guitar sound.  Something’s Died bounces along with some more melodic vocals, another rocking number in your face, great drumming and a fade into its close.  Choo Choo Train has a much harder intro, immediately rocking, great riffs, an even better solo, it’s a catchy little number, with very ‘metal’ vocals at times and an explosive ending.  Be Careful You Might Get What You Want does give us what we want – melodic vocal intro, showing real quality in the voice, backed only by some sublime electric guitar sounds, crafting an emotional atmosphere, substance from the arrival of the bass and drums simply adding to a memorable ballad.  Simple belies its name – it is a more upbeat track, light and breezy, but it has a real edge to it and is a very well constructed pop/rock song.  Fools gives us a Franz Ferdinand feel, a funky beat to the intro, keeping you on your toes as the beat changes, the drumming so well controlled, still that edge from the guitar sound, it’s sharp as it leads us into a softer ending and the track fades out.  “This is our last song and we’ve been Funny Face and we love you, obviously, and thank you for having us”, and we are into You’ve Wasted Your Life On Gadgets (yet another remarkable song title from them), another vocal dominated intro, it’s restrained, building a tension that they work off, guitar breaks threatening to get beyond the hold of the drums, pushing, building, before finally the drums can hold it in no longer and the track races away and soars.  It’s an excellent ending to a very promising set.

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