Cults + Fanzine + Hearts @ Hare & Hounds, 24th August 2011

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A very brief three song opening set from boy/girl guitar/synths duo Hearts. Very much beat driven with desaturated, austere guitar and spacey jingling keyboards complimented by echo-soaked falsetto vocals. Shame it was so short but their accomplished musicianship was beyond question.

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London based four piece Fanzine have an engaging take on middle American lyrical rock with flavours of C&W and pop/grunge. The songs are short, catchily melodic that, for the most part, occupy the mid-tempo beat, save ‘I Wanna Touch Your Hand’ that really lets rip with fists full of riffs and infectiously catchy simple verse/chorus and blister-chord bridges. Perhaps one or two more songs of thrashing abandonment like the former to provide a breadth of light and shade dynamic. A highly accessible, hard-working band. Put the word around.

Setlist: Roman Holiday, Susan, L.A., Houses Fall, I Wanna Touch Your Hand, Kissing, Rocket Fuel, My Stupid Brain (single release).

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UK touring their eponymous debut album, New York film student/musicians, aka Cults, Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion (I know, bless!) celebrate an unashamedly remembrance of all things past nostalgia. Their soaring harmonies and fuzzy-heart felt melodies are graffiti-strewn across a Phil Spector wall of 60s retro-romantic sounds of Summers of Love. However, there’s a disconcerting film-noir surrealism prologue with the set opening to the ‘Twin Peaks’ theme tune and ongoing back-projection edits of ‘The Night Of The Hunter’ (1955, Dir. Charles Laughton). Its noir-thriller menacing use of forced-angular neo-German Expressionism set designs whilst the deranged man-in-black Robert Mitchum sets about murdering kids seems distinctly bizarre. These Art-House cinephiles, really! It’s all very Americana derivative with twangy loving spoonfuls of medicinal Acid Rock poptastic innocence resonating with Motown/Muscle Shoals influenced bass rhythms.

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And wasn’t there a glockenspiel tingling reference to The Cascades’ ‘Listen To The Rhythm Of The Falling Rain’? Ms. Follin’s auburn, Janis Joplin swooping locks and epiphanic, archetypal 60s hi-voltage chic rock-chick vocals define their sound. Eclectic magpies ever, they don’t miss a trick to turn on, tune in and drop down some seriously groovy-beat sample archives. The songs are concise and reassuringly formulaic with a beguiling sense of almost, but never quite, outrageously climactic naive kitsch. But, there’s an edgy underscore to all this as the film backdrop insinuates its disturbing dynamic. Look-up their official video for ‘Go Outside’. Its seemingly wholesome, happy-clappy evangelic ambience has a darker, very much darker side.

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It’s a must see and might just make you think twice about supping that festival cider currently being promoted to the same tune re-mixed by The 2 Bears. Their gravitas, together with an engaging rapport with the punter-packed Hare was, in no small way, down to the cataclysmic drumming from Marc Deriso in sonic mayhem tandem with bassist, Nathan Aguilar and Gabriel Rodriquez on keys/glock/guitar. No encore after a fairly brisk set but embracing thank yous/promises to return as the PA howled to a reverberating loop distortion. An outstanding night. Groovy, cool players with many, many layers. Catch them before they go nuclear. Thanks to Carlo at Birmingham Promoters and Greg, the sound-mix maestro and blue light provider.

Setlist: Addicted, The Curse, Never Heal Myself, Most Wanted, You Know What I Mean, Bumper, Never Saw The Point, Go Outside, Rave On, Oh My God.

Review – John Kennedy
Photos – Ian Dunn

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