Wednesday, 7 July 2010

commercial alternative @ mono, 4th july

Falafel, knitting, genko green-tea lemonade and a be-stooled artist sketching alongside snappers: seems Mono’s laidback vibe has translated to the mini-festival format intact. Vegan ethics and home-brewing can’t do much about the weather, alas, but the foresight to stage today indoors (save some outdoor seating braved surprisingly regularly by punters oblivious to the un-summery temperatures), gives it a one-up on the venue’s dearly departed Hey You Get Off My Pavement in levels of comfort, though without matching the sense of occasion the aforementioned King’s Court mardi-gras used to generate. Today is a more lean affair, but within its parameters it’s hugely successful, largely due to its unbroken parade of great bands.

Ok, Golden Grrrls (***) haven’t qualified for ‘greatness’ quite yet, but their distorted noise-pop (broadly pitched in the same ballpark as the Vivian Girls) evidences great potential. Peter Parker (***) are already realising theirs, sounding more robust than last time this reviewer enjoyed a set of theirs. Echoes of Le Tigre and the Primitives emanate - though singer Roz’s pink wash and vocal hiccup on Swallow the Rockets suggests a Cyndi Lauper influence in the mix as well.

It’s a shame Astral Planes (****) had to change their name from Paper Planes, their rechristening evoking peyote and a Jim Morrison fixation. Thankfully their sound continues to eschew trippy jams for refined rock, adopting various guises - Grease prom, Cramps-esque garage, a riot-grrrl Ventures - and excelling in each.

Remember Remember (*****) could pen an awesome seventies sci-fi soundtrack; one of those pre-synth scores from the likes of Silent Running or Soylent Green. Except, instead of a space-greenhouse or people-burgers (they would not go down well here), the film would be about a moon lab trying to genetically grow Holy Fuck out of household appliances and glockenspiel bars, and stumbling across something better. Gob-smacked philosophical rumination would follow.

“Just what festival crowds like - new songs!” grins the 1990s' (****) Jackie McKeown, guiding us through fresh material which comfortably improves on last year’s Kicks. You Were Supposed To Be My Friend and a cover of Alex Chilton’s Take Me Home are the set’s highlights, but that’s not to say their third full-length won’t be a corker.

McKeown sticks around to assist Comet Gain (****), though with a warning from David Feck that “any of that whammy bar shite and I’ll kick you in the prick.”. Their set suggests The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are jammy so-and-sos - embraced for their revivalist aesthetic when Comet Gain were doing it all along, with greater variety to boot.

Though the stage-times have skewed from the schedule over the course of the day, if people have trains to catch, few are bothering. The lure of new material from The Phantom Band (****) keeps the room bustling, the makings of their second album successfully in-line with Checkmate Savage’s tightly-performed adventurousness. The instrumental Crocodiles claims Song of the Day at the final furlong, crowning what has arguably been the best rainy Sunday of the summer.

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