Sherief Younis

14:34 22nd April 2006

The Camden Crawl-ing starts in typically busy fashion and queues are the order of the day. Apparently we’re meant to be pretty good at it us Brits, but there’s always exceptions. One such amnesty are Howling Bells.  Packed into the Oh! Bar their sultry desert rock deserves a stage much bigger than the one afforded to them tonight.  Front woman Juanita Stein immediately strikes you like a porcelain doll with the poise of Debby Harry – that her voice is a swirling luxurious purr just makes it all the more perfect.  Tracks like ‘Low Happening’ and ‘Broken Bones’ could see the Oh! Bar reduced to an outback truck stop.  This isn’t just simple rock revivalism.  It’s cool, self-possessed and what the Desert Sessions might sound like with a bit of polish.

Undertaking the kind of trek associated with camels and water, the fresh faced likeable pop of Good Books is worthy of such a walk.  Max Cooke’s poetic delivery and choirboy flourishes coupled with grinning bear like bassist Chris Porter’s plodding lines make for an amiable show.  Although lacking in presence and struggling in a battle against bar room chatter, the pensive, deliberate build up and chanting breakdown of ‘Walk with Me’ provides the highlight everyone’s waiting for.

The Fratelli’s seem unfazed by the snaking queue outside.  Their bare ball’s to the wall punk rock flits between the lock in sing a longs and frantically double speed numbers.  With all the psycho babble charm of their Liverpudlian counterparts (The Zutons et al) ’Creepin up the Backstairs’ practically falls down them head first.

Squirming off the Test Icicles germ slide Elle Milano come at you with similar intentions.  From brash and tuneless to relentlessly feisty they’re inexplicably likeable.  Rants about lad culture and the middle class scourge will have the Daily Mail scuttling to the safety of the suburbs in no time.  See Optimist Club and Tigerforce for similarly noisy good things.
 
Rounding things up, The Futureheads are about as consummately polished a band as you’re likely to see and return as sharp as ever.  The new material is as punchy, spiky and vocally pitch perfect as the favourites which are received to delirium.  ‘Area’, ‘Decent Days and Nights’ and ‘Meantime’ sit with newbie’s ‘Back to the Sea’, ‘Cope’ and ‘Berserker’ like childhood friends.  Despite a 10 minute power cut disrupting ‘Decent Days…’, they return “Just like magic” according to bassist Jaff, to sweep all before them like the pack of tuneful dogs they are.

Photo by: Simon Leak