It being the Meshuggy-hosted after-party for The Go! Team show that’s taking place across town, we descend into the basement of Magnet tantalised by the prospect of bouncing beats and sunshine smiles. Do we get them? Well, not entirely…
Setting an early high score tonight are the magic 1up, a four-way multi-play between retro games obsessives who’ve taken the time to unplug their joypads, pick up their instruments and step out of the bedroom for a bit of real-world action. Taking their cue from NES covers band The Advantage, they bash out instrumental themes from console favourites like ‘Double Dragon’, ‘Zelda’, ‘Sonic’ and ‘Bubble Bobble’. True, the last time we heard computer game themes in the charts it was in the form of corny cash-ins on the Gameboy craze (namely ‘Tetris’ and ‘Super Mario Land’), but this is more of a geeky nostalgia trip than cynical opportunism. Even to those without the gaming nous to pick out the favourites, 1up are a funky bunch – and they’re even granted a bonus life (well, an encore) at the end. 1up leave you feeling like you’ve just nutted a brick and eaten a giant mushroom. Pixelly-pop fun.
With Level 1 out the way, it’s off to Planet Creepbeat to take on the alien monsters from Bradford/Leeds who call themselves Ruby Tombs. A thrashy, sci-fi punk three-piece, monochrome princess Lauralee and drummer Bobby squeal their way through their single ‘Those Who Can’t’ and it’s B-side ‘Tittle Tattle’. They’ve brought a fair bit of bric-a-brac with them too – a giant syringe, a basketful of what looks like toys and a strange voice altering thing that makes Lauralee sound like a robot after a binary bender. They even bring out a giant bone (no sniggering, at the back) on the tribal, pounding ‘Caveman Caveman’ that brings the set to a clattering, avant-rock close. Like That Fucking Tank, Ruby Tombs are proof that not every band in Yorkshire want to capture the essence of post-millennial British existence in a wry couplet: some of them just want to make noise.
So far, so technicolour. But, as the Go! Teamers start to file in from upstairs, so do the clouds of musical derivation gather. Preston’s Y’r Impossible just don’t pull it off tonight: whether that be down to the interminable new wave-by-numbers of the tracks early in the set, the lack of hooks or the sullen ‘cool’ of singer J Loughlin, they simply don’t engage. ‘Valerie’ is a painful exposé of their poor voices and may hint at why they stick to monotone vocal lines more or less on every track. The same song also brings mocking chants of ‘Hounds Of Love’ from the brave boys at the back, but, sadly, it’s a valid criticism. Things do improve once the minimal ‘Chemicals’ gets past the bass intro nicked note-for-note from The Rakes’ ‘Retreat’, and the final, slowly-grinding ‘Live A Better Life’ proves they do have more to offer than second-rate art rock. Sons And Daughters and The Little Flames do this kind of female-fronted, punk-edged indie with so much more panache – if Y’r Impossible are to measure up, they might need to spend a little less time on their posturing and a bit more on finding their own sound.
Fortunately, The Go! Team are here with a box of 12” tricks with which to bring a smile to even the iciest of indie snobs, and as we step up from the basement and into the Liverpool midnight, we don’t even feel the cold. So it’s hats off to our hosts, as tonight we were a headliner away from a classic.