First up, I agreed to do this as a last minute favour, for Mr Brum Live, when the intended reviewer dropped out. As such, whilst my knowledge of leftfield/experimental hip hop and psychedelic/stoner rock is reasonable, my toe dipping into the world of electronic music only goes about as deep as Portishead, LCD Soundsystem and Kraftwerk. You’ll have to excuse me if my comparisons aren’t as relevant as they might have been or if in fact they are non-existent.
Judging by the long queue of yuppies/trendies/hipsters (whatever you want to call them) waiting at the top of the stairs, at the back of the Hare and Hounds, this, it appears, is the scene du jour of the Moseley/Kings Heath cool kids crowd. I also popped my head into the Jibbering Records gig in the next room and there was a decent amount of people in there too. Who said live music in Birmingham is dead?
Instantly rendering all that aforementioned electronica stuff temporarily irrelevant, the support band were a straight up traditional four piece. Lead, rhythm and bass guitars and drums. Opening with a song that seemed to blend a Strokes vocal line over a Broken Social Scene-style backdrop, they began promisingly, however Bi-polar Bears soon settled into an averagely bland indie band sound and set (at least that’s what I thought, though, as noted, this isn’t my sort of music and the other 100-150 people in the room seemed to be quietly enjoying them) The rest of their tracks ticked along slowly and without incident, just about keeping us awake. One misguided fan’s totally inappropriate horns symbol bought a wry smile to my face until I realised he wasn’t being sarcastic. But, my English teacher always told me to end a review with a compliment so…. they played their instruments well and there were some nice harmonies between the lead and backing singers.
After a short interlude Evil Alien (good name) took to the stage with a series of distorted and delayed electronic bleeps, quickly bringing the gig out of the 90s and into 2013, a cinematic projection behind them giving the performance a truly multimedia effect. A couple of songs propelled by an electronic drumkit and filled out by sometimes harsh, sometimes soaring synth interjections, were then followed by a riff-heavy noisescape, beauty of a track (they didn’t announce the titles). Vocalist Glen Myth’s poignantly dark lyrics sat perfectly in the mix, at times reminding me of (and he may or may not like this comparison) of the singing on James’s ‘Millionaires’ album. Best and noisiest song of the night award goes to upcoming single, Higher Than The Sun, which already boasts Radio 1 airplay and Zane Lowe as a fan. Played with far more oomph than the recorded version, this live performance was immense . Lana Del Ray style sad-core vocals over electronic era Radiohead-esque instruments build skywards into a memorable chorus and then drop back to Earth, “looking down the barrel of a gun”.
Evil Alien hail from Birmingham, and they paid homage to Brumtown in one of their well synced video clips, a POV trip round the roads of the centre of our fair town. Far removed from the many Sabbath influenced acts the second city seems to produce, it was a privilege to catch these guys in a small venue before they hit the big time, which can’t be too far away. My one criticism is they weren’t on stage long enough, only treating us to 5 or 6 songs. Nevermind, that was still enough to convert me, next time anyone asks what electronic music I like its now Portishead, LCD Soundsystem, Kraftwerk AND Evil Alien.
Higher Than The Sun is out on Monday 11th February 2013.
Review by Alex Dean
Photographs by Ian Dunn