The Wandering Step make a poppy racket somewhere between Lou Reed (who even gets a namecheck during one song) and the early eighties college-country types The Long Ryders. It’s not unpleasant, but all a little flimsy until the barnstorming set-closer which adds a much-needed injection of Southern boogie to their unprepossessing sound.
Pop Levi and the Emergencies provide a stark contrast. In fact, they’d contrast wildly with pretty much any band you cared to put them on the same bill as. Though initially sceptical at their distracting, trend-conscious stage uniforms and Pop’s immaculate coiffeur, I am immediately won over by their music. It is clear that they have put just as much time and effort into the sound as they have the look, and the attention to detail is scary. Beaming in from some parallel universe where the weird side of garage rock was the part that caught on (think the crazed, psychedelic stuff like The Monks, Count Five or The Remains, as opposed to the straight-up scuzz-rock of The Stooges), they possess a rare combination of style and substance, right down to the spooky reverb on Pop’s alarming falsetto. It’s retro stuff, for sure, but at least they’re digging in different crates to everybody else.
Here at Gigwise we are dedicated to high grammatical standards, and so it is with some reluctance that I type the horribly misplaced apostrophe in the name of tonight’s next act: The Jones’s. Were it not for the delightful performance that accompanies this heinous assault on language, I would happily skip them altogether. But The Jones’s are just too good to ignore. Marrying the soulful, Hammond-led funk of Booker T. & The MGs with the better aspects of The Style Council’s smooth jazz, they almost manage to throw in a fantastic slice of Dr. John-style New Orleans boogie called 'Necessary Evil'. It’s tight, rhythmic and danceable – clearly not breaking new ground, but irresistibly fun.
The good-time mood The Jones’s worked hard to create is soon tainted by the arrival of The 747s. Though none of the bands on tonight’s bill have been overburdened with originality, only the headliners leave a sour taste in the mouth. There’s something unpleasantly calculated about the performance, from the combat gear and mirror shades, to the tedious cod-reggae they peddle. This is far from the punky reggae party envisioned by The Clash; rather, it feels like pillaging, by an act desperate to find a new old trend to recycle. The trouble is not that they steal ideas, but that they do it so badly. Hell, even The Police had the decency to wrap their whiteboy skank around some fine pop tunes. Take away the wacky clothes and the guitarist’s incessant soloing, and all that’s left is the laboured sound of a group with no ideas.