You can’t help but like Bad Apes; a three piece punk rock band from Wolverhampton. Maybe they are a little loose around the edges musically and often seem unfocused, but what they lack in technical skill, they more than make up for with youthful exuberance, energy and joy in performance. It makes a refreshing change to see bands smiling, laughing and chatting with the crowd with no self-conscious anxiety. It is a breath of fresh air to see the bass player Jon fighting to take his coat off onstage from under his bass mid-set because it is so hot under the lights. It is the highlight of year to see singer/guitarist James jump off the stage at the end of the set, closely followed by Jon and both end up in a heap on the floor, scrapping and fighting, still with their guitars around their necks, and still plugged in.
Bad Apes have a lot of interesting musical ideas going for them, and for a three piece they make an impressively coherent noise. Hopefully with a bit more time and understanding they will be able to tie together some of the looser elements, but as far as their live performance goes, keep doing the same, you win the award for best live act hands down.
The second band of the evening is Talk, from Shrewsbury. I had already played their ‘Reset Start Again’ album to death and am anxious to see how they transfer the meticulously produced final product into a live setting. The first clue is the stack of equipment filling the stage, even a theremin: award for having and using one of these instruments duly given and well-earned.
I am sure Talk are either sick or well used to comparisons with the mighty Radiohead, as their sound certainly is reminiscent of them. Not only the bleeping and crackling drum beats, the uncountable time signatures, the soaring guitars, the minor chord piano lines, but the voice as well. Long drawn out melancholic notes floating above finely arranged mood pieces, are not a million miles from Mr Yorke and co.
However, Talk manage to deliver all this with their own twist and do so with massive confidence and skill. Live, they are unmissable as there is more punch and rawness than on their album (which is beautifully crafted and heartbreakingly touching in places). Their band name may well be half of Talk Talk, however, they are no shabby substitute for them or Radiohead and have every right to stand next to bands of this calibre.
I have tried desperately not to use the R word too often in this review, but when a band as well-known and influential as the great Radiohead send out the tentacles, it is easy to spot when those influences shade the work of another band. For me, I would rather hear their sound flowing through newer bands than that horrible other successful band of the 90‘s starting with an O.
Whereas Talk are more ‘Hail To The Thief’ Radiohead, The Silhouettes remind me more of ‘The Bends’ era. I guess this is due to their emphasis on guitars and live drums for most of the set with slightly less focus on piano, samplers and effects.
Nathan (lead singer/guitar) again has an excellent voice that has echoes of Thom, but still retains a real listenable originality about it. This is unquestionable as he lifts the roof with the stunning anti-religious ‘Hallelujah’. Lyrically as well here they show great maturity and wisdom, but expressed simply: “You’ll find more hope in words on toilet walls” is such a golden image and a real sign this band has more to say than the majority of their contemporaries.
The Silhouettes do both loud and hard, and soft and emotional extremely well. ‘Forgive Me’ is a case in point, wonderful quiet piano and vocal opening, followed by thundering drums and aching vocals.
I must say that the only doubts I have about the band are concerning image: half the band are going forward with some sense of a ‘look’, while the other half seem as though they have just turned up in whatever was lying around. Unfortunately in today’s music business, image is everything and bands need to recognise that they must be a complete package, great songs and musicianship are no longer enough. However, at least The Silhouettes have the really important side nailed down from the off.
Three stunning bands for £5 on a cold night in Wolverhampton, what more could you ask for. Thankfully there is a decent crowd, mainly made up of friends and family it seems, hopefully these friends will soon increase to become a following, as all three bands richly deserve all the success that comes their way. There is hope for the future of British music it seems, and I for one want to be first in the queue.
Review & Photos – Al Neilson