Spector @ Bethnal Green Working Men's Club
Are our first Ones To Watch as sharp live as they are dressed?
Chris Swindells - 07 December 2011
Bethnal Green’s Working Men’s Club is traditionally a trusted shelter from trendy high street fashion labels
and new baby-faced guitar bands. Tonight though, the Lyle and Scott showcase is checking scene in the East London venue, which
is festively full with a warm, esoteric atmosphere, a kind escape from the biting chill outside.
Inside, wooden panelling and badly hung Christmas decorations adorn the walls and even the ceiling of this time warp of a venue. It’s ironic as it’s about to birth two of 2012’s most hotly-tipped, comment-inviting musical grand plans.
Theme Park have every right to be lit up, posturing and playing for the adulation on this tightly-squeezed stage tonight; but in light of the day’s music news events they start as a secondary feature. Even still they’re not about to bow out, resigned to a polite, soft-handed handshake support slot.
Maybe thanks to the brief set length everything about the young five-piece shines. Single ‘Milk’ has innocent conviction and bravado you’ve not heard since the enigmatic emergence of Theme Park’s frequent touring partners Bombay Bicycle Club, with all soulful, underplayed heart and tender rhythms.
The Talking Heads comparisons are all but perfunctory touchstones in the setting of an East London working men’s club, Theme Park are just having fun making grand gestures with understated sweet sonics. Brothers Miles and Marcus Haughton engage the whole room, even if their twee, gaze-avoiding hallmark style is a million miles from what Spector have in store for the second half of the night.
Fred Macpherson is the mastermind in Spector’s short but unconventional history. The five men who began as one, as Macpherson went about recruiting hired hands and creating an homage to the indie explosion of the past decade. This is nostalgia on the quick. If the influences are clear, the name is more obtuse, with former pop producing guru and now convicted murderer Phil given a knowing nod, and there’s plenty of his trademark sound on offer if you listen hard.
Machpherson is a vehicle for the avant-garde extremes of Art Brut with the spiked commercial backbone of Strokes and their genre-defining partners in crime. His first wit-filled interlude comes in the form of a reading, today from ‘The Best Man Duties’, from which he exclaims: “If the result is to be a success it needs proper planning.” Every single element of Spector’s show tonight has been well planned: from the fitted suits the five piece model to the sharp, piercing pop dynamics of their fiery rock outrage.
Spector readily admit to influences as far and as wide as The Killers and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but it’s their UK counterparts they best resemble tonight. Elements of The Vaccines and The Rakes are stamped all over the sound. So to hold them up and critique them in that light, they’re far more gutsy and flamboyant than the aforementioned guitar posterboys. Macpherson’s Wilde-like audience performance has a charisma you can’t turn away from. When he slows the pace, as with ‘Grey Shirt & Tie’, Spector sound closest to cannon of the producer they reference, in name at least.
On introducing a song fresh from the studio ‘Twenty Nothing’, Macpherson asks reviewers and bloggers to overlook it. Not easily done as this scorching, hormonal track of adolescence and affection for youthful excesses is hard to omit with its call and response chorus. But begrudgingly we won’t mention it.
On to the case of elephant in the room (and without a bit of gloating): Machpherson mentions today’s BBC Sound of 2012 poll nominations, in which his band feature. Whether a well-scheduled PR ploy or not, it’s all smiles. Especially when long-term friend Dev Hynes makes the most briefest of guest appearances. Strapping on a Strat for ‘Chevvy Thunder’, the Blood Orange man is all in black with leather cap and plays his Clapton cameo with plucky perfection before hurriedly disappearing into the shadows.
Spector clearly know to leave people wanting more, and say their adieus with what could be described as a bone-fide classic in the making, ‘Never Fade Away’. The title inappropriate enough as these five look destined to do anything but, with the poll results just the start of something that looks bright and wide in front of them in 2012.
Check out Spector's One To Watch page with festival dates, free downloads and more.