Lightspeed Champion + Kurran and the Wolfnotes @ Birmingham Academy 3, 9th May 2010

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The question is – would a change in headgear signal a change in direction? Moving from the cute wolfman look to the ill-fitting Yankees baseball cap may add a comical jockey-like dimension to Devonté Hynes’ image; but what about the music?

Prolific is an over- used word when applied to musicians but the Lightspeed Champion front man is just that. If it isn’t a new film score, then it’s a collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, Emmy the Great or Diane Vickers, writing comic books or short stories and all around trying to get his voice back together after wrecking it through over-touring his debut album Falling off the Lavender Bridge .

And now there is a new album Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You , like the debut full of genre bridging tunes and layers upon layers of instrumentation. You can see where pundits draw the parallels with Todd Rundgren but this creates similar challenges in recreating the songs live. This can lead to mixed reviews and even some fans blog about being disappointed by the harder, pared down sound that the four-piece produce.

Kurran and the Wolfnotes 1

Apparently a wolf note is when you hit the strings of a guitar too hard and the sound resonates louder and longer than usual; a bit like a wolf’s howl. Kurran and the Wolfnotes‘ music sounds more like they may have been spat out of that mysterious factory that must exist somewhere in the mid-Atlantic which produces indie-folky-with-a bit-of-grunge sounding bands seemingly on a daily basis. The influences are obvious and no actual wolf notes were in evidence. Singer Kurran Karbal was also sporting some natty headgear, but this time a more traditional bobble hat.

The cosmopolitan make up of the London-based band and the combination of instruments have led some to lump them in with Mumford and Sons and Noah and the Whale, but on tonight’s performance this is an unfair comparison. The two singles Whatabitch and Your Four Limbs stand out and hopefully the increased exposure given by this tour will elevate them out of the undiscovered band category.


Lightspeed Champion have no such problems with Dev Hynes almost classed as an international treasure these days, but testing the water in smaller venues like the Academy 3 may not be what is expected of him. With about 150 people in the crowd he made light of this quipping You may have noticed we swapped venues with Hole.

Opening with the first single Marlene from the new album he almost seemed apologetic (We haven’t toured for a few years) but the only difference I could tell was a slightly harder edge to the sound with a lot more guitar, and keyboards making less of an appearance.

In this set the first group of songs run into one another with Midnight Surprise Galaxy of the Lost and Tell Me What It’s Worth showing all the elements of his music with changing time signatures making for a disjointed feel combining with more the expansive and poppy passages that must make these songs quite difficult to play live and hence the reservations of some fans.


As if to emphasise this the two songs that both the band and the crowd seemed comfortable with were covers: the Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry Baby with Dev handing over the vocal duties (Let’s hear it for John’s shirt) and the encore The Beatles’ It Wont Be Long

The new single Madame Van Damme stood out amongst the newer stuff but the highlight was a solo performance of There’s Nothing Underwater with just the man and guitar as the first part of the encore.


So to answer the question the headgear didn’t really signal any change and I spotted only one other Yankees baseball cap in the crowd a nice pink number so maybe the fashion hasn’t quite caught on yet.

Set list


Midnight Surprise

Galaxy of the Lost

Romart Play video

Tell Me What It’s Worth

Don’t Worry baby

Faculty of Fears

Madame Van Damme

Middle of the Dark

Heavy Purple



There’s Nothing Underwater

It Won’t Be Long

Reviewer – Ian Gelling
Photographer – Steph Colledge

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