The Poppycocks at Hanbury Ballroom, Brighton

PARKER is one Mr. Ben Parker, a guitarist and singer originating from Jersey. Looking dapper in a long brown jacket, he takes to the stage to perform his acoustic set accompanied by Jon Pugh of the Poppycocks in a guest appearance on drums. Faced with the unenviable task of opening to a half-capacity crowd, PARKER makes it easy for himself by playing a set of catchy, poppy numbers. His strength is that his songs are almost completely at odds with the current music scene. That’s not to say they’re old-fashioned; merely that they put the listener in mind of the Beach Boys or the Kinks rather than any contemporary bands. And that’s a good thing. A cover of Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Me and the Major’, some nice kazoo work and a dedication to Syd Barrett later, and PARKER’s brief set is over all too soon. Definitely one to watch.

Halfway through RELAX ME’s set I turn to my friend and ask, “So, what do you think?” “Er”, he replies, “they’re a bit leftfield.” Calling RELAX ME “a bit leftfield” is like saying Hitler was “a bit naughty”. A two-piece consisting of 8-track and vocals, they’re absolutely mental. Looking worryingly like a young Mick Hucknall, the singer steps up to the microphone, flings both arms out and begins to sing, “Hello. Look at me. I’m a tree.” And then it gets weirder. The songs themselves are mainly torch songs with all sorts of electronic madness going on behind, like Antony and the Johnsons falling face first into an enormous pile of ketamine. RELAX ME are a real Marmite band: whilst they provoke joy in one half of the audience, the other half are standing around looking nonplussed. Catch these guys if you can, if only for sheer freak show value – you won’t see anything weirder all year.

LA FRANGE are not – as you may reasonably expect – French, although they pretend to be. Nor do they perform French songs or sing in Inspector Clouseau stylee accents. At the very least I had hoped for an accordion, yet my hopes were sadly dashed. But they do dress in matching stripy jumpers. Ahhh, that’s alright then. “We have forgiven Zidane”, they reassure us, before launching into a set of raucous indie-rock. The thing about LA FRANGE is that they’ve got a very modern sound. In fact they’re so “now” it hurts. Distilling the best bits of Bloc Party and The Automatic (particularly the latter), they deliver a real crowd-pleasing show with highlights such as ‘You’re Never Alone with a Mobile Phone’. However, there’s not much to distinguish them from the current glut of indie bands. They’ll need a sound of their own if they’re to stand out from the myriad Dirty Pretty Shambles Ferdinand Monkeys clones.

Now, the POPPYCOCKS are who everybody’s come to see. By the time they take to the stage the room is packed out and as they begin their first song it’s easy to see why. The POPPYCOCKS trade in gorgeous indie-pop with an edge, rather in the vein of the Concretes or Belle and Sebastian. Opener ‘She Send Me Letters’ is a highlight, as is the relentlessly catchy ‘Char Lady Memo’, but all the songs are so gloriously poppy that it’s hard to pick favourites. Even on first hearing they sound like classics. The band have a real camaraderie on stage too, and their relaxed yet upbeat style draws the audience in. They end with the spectacular ‘Climbin Trees’, a song surely worthy of the award, “Best use of monkey noises in a pop song”. Check these guys out, they deserve to be huge.

Last updated: 19/04/2018 04:52:47

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