USSU Introducing… @ The Cube, 11th November
The first of the 3-band selection tray at The Cube on Tuesday evening was Hold Fire – a 4-piece with an extremely polished, almost over-neat sound – more or less summed up as 50% Coldplay, 50% Strokes. Hold Fire may not be pure innovation, but their music is as Kooksily poptastic as one could ask for. Four-way vocal harmonies were some of the truest I have heard in a live set; and, regardless of one’s opinion of Chris Martin et al, Hold Fire are undeniably a ‘foot-tapping’ band.
Second and personal favourite were The Voluntary Butler Scheme. If the preceding band were polished, The Voluntary Butler Scheme were the reverse; but their tunes won my vote as the more interesting and experimental. A good proportion of the vocals consisted of ‘ooh ooh ooh’ – so much so that the singers started to resemble King Louis in The Jungle Book. But given my weakness for synths, I was in the right place as the two keyboardists battled it out, sliding their fingers up and down the keys like toddlers at a Yamaha class. Moreover, the group managed to capture the type of garage-band sonic rawness and simplicity that’s nowadays commonly cellophaned up as ‘pop-rock’.
One very cute vocal moment came on their single (“our only single”, as they put it, but one that was picked out as Steve Lamacq’s Single Of The Week back in July) with the lyrics “If you want something reached, that you can’t reach, I’ll unravel my favourite jumper to make a lasso.” You could practically see every indie girl’s heart dribbling to the floor.
Primed with booze and two impressive support acts, we were all set to sample the headliners. Sporting my favourite name of the three bands, I had high hopes for the Fox Cubs. Unfortunately, the Newbury sextet’s triple guitar effort fell a bit flat. They seemed to lack the energy of the other two bands – dressed all in black, the image was there, but the sound behind it was monotonous and over-earnest. A half-hearted injunction to dance failed to get the audience going, ending the evening on a bit of a damp squib.
Summary: skip the Foxy ones, go for the Butlers, and have the Hold Fire’s CD in the car for the drive home. This is indie-pop with at least half a brain.