Little Fish - Manchester Apollo

Little Fish, at the very least, give the uninitiated something to mull over. I spend most of their invigorating half hour (as support to Blondie) clear on one thing – I really do quite like them. The duo of singer and guitarist JuJu and drummer Nez (augmented by a keyboard player tonight) peddle a satisfying brew of respectably raw rock ‘n’ roll, laced with a finger of something altogether more bracing. When they get it right, and, largely, they do get it right, it’s difficult to resist their well-oiled groove. Those of us familiar only with current single ‘Am I Crazy ?’ take note of the fact that it’s probably their weakest hand. Better by far are the songs that lock into something approaching a slow burning delta thrum or the couple that, based on their elementary rattle and hum, have led to a few Patti Smith comparisons. (I’m able, no joke, to go “Horse, horses, horses, horses …” over their second song tonight. Mmm.)

But, and there was always going to be a but, it’s not all so fine and dandy. As much as I like the songs, there are problems. JuJu, who has me wary from the off by describing herself as “odd” on the band’s website, needs to tone the performance down a bit. The use of Stage School Hands has been claimed for 2010 by Ellie Goulding and lesser lights like her should really be allowed sole rights. Then there’s the voice. It’s big – very - but it’s not big and it’s far from clever to hurl it around with “Whoa Bodyform!” disregard for restraint and good taste. It’s when JuJu really lets it go where they start to lose me and the little slivers of edge that could get them a decent reception on, say, a Reading Festival stage (they remind me at times of Razorlight, my notes tell me) are buried under MOR bombast. And, I have to say, at a time where two really is company and the duo is this week’s hippest formation, it’s a setup that doesn’t fit Little Fish so well. When the likes of The Ting Tings and Blood Red Shoes, two bands where the drummer, by dint of character and vocal and musical contribution, sell the duo so well, Little Fish lag behind a bit. Nez, the drummer, just drums. He’s front of stage but I hardly notice him. Throwing in the keyboard player tells me they have their doubts too. I’d get straight back to the design boys and start afresh: electric front woman upfront, ya proper good old fashioned band behind. Not quite so radical ? For sure. Entirely appropriate ? No doubt.

One more thing. I spy the intro to their opener in a nanosecond. For a band signed to Linda Perry’s label, opening with something that’s a dead ringer for 4 None Blondes’ ‘What’s Up’ is surely a no-no. The thirteen year old pounces: “Dad, that first song reminded me of the one mum always does on Lips!” Guilty! And with reservations like that, it’s time to avoid wanton hyperbole and offer up a smidgeon of sense for once. Little Fish show real promise. Exposed on a huge stage, plenty of stage craft still to learn and yet to release an album, I’d say that was quite a thumbs up.

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