Saturday, 21 February 2009

Help Stamp Out Loneliness, The Empty Set, The Deaf Institute, Thursday February 19

It’s hard to imagine how any band could look less rock ‘n’ roll than the Empty Set. The duo is visibly nervous, resembling staid scholars in smart, tweedy clothes and spectacles. They seem more like they’re about to give a lecture on physics than play a gig. They have a certain charm, though, looking like the sort of ‘sensible’ boy your mum wishes you would take home with you.

True to appearances, the Empty Set serenade with witty yet wistful love songs. You have to strain to hear Tom’s sweet voice, which has the pureness of youth but the groundedness of someone who’s wise before his time, over an impatient, unappreciative audience. It’s worth it. These are well thought out songs, which marry lyrics about things like Copernicus and photons to the jaunty sounds of a ukulele. Dan’s violin melodies have a life of their own, taking off on a journey through the pastures and back roads of a by gone England.

The Empty Set are deceptively sedate, however; they cover Cole Porter, but a shimmering take on Some Candy Talking by the Jesus and Marychain is just as effective.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness offer a different kind of rose tinted nostalgia, one that originates in discos and clubs rather than books and libraries. Where the Empty Set were subtle, Help Stamp Out Loneliness’s broad sound offers little room for delicacy or introspectiveness. Three boys and three girls groove through danceable pop led by two keyboards and a singer who sounds like Nico doing 80s pop. She’s an old style performer, belonging in the days when pop stars were pop stars, adding expression to the music with hand movements and hip shaking moves. She even looks like a diva, dolled up for a night out in glossy makeup and a metallic evening dress. A cropped haircut, like the girls from the Human League circa Dare, completes the look.

In case we hadn’t got the message that this was all very inspired by a certain former decade, DJ Jamie from Kissing Just for Practise played us out with tracks by the Field Mice and Orange Juice.

No comments: