The Maine - Manchester Academy 1
Whoa. Do the young people love to queue or what? Not phased in the slightest by what the pesky ticket says about start times, a human chain of black nail varnish, skinny denim and checks snakes down into the city centre hours before doors open. Manchester's rock teens abandon their Urbis enclave, high on anticipation, giddy with pre-gig chatter. The locals must think Kings of Leon are in town or something. Nope (it's not that bad), it's Arizona's The Maine, US punk-poppers of middling repute but worthy of a last minute venue upgrade to the two thousand capacity Academy 1. Inside it's the usual. Average age? 15. Max. No queues at the bar (hurrah!) A chorus of squeals erupts over the PA each time a new song starts during the interval. Proportion of girls to boys? 3/1. Easy. Oh, to be a pop star.
Sadly, The Maine, much in line with their unspeakably bland, Debenhams-influenced moniker, hug the mainstream like Robert Maxwell and his life raft. Drowning, not raving. Being a pop star, you suspect, is leader John Callaghan's (and you thought David Jones was worthy of a deed poll upgrade?) sole driver, as opposed to, oh I don't know, creating works of art that challenge and stimulate the youth of today. Hey man! Hey, yeah, Mr Boring Old Tosser - what do you know? It's just party music! Mmm. And that stopped Bolan, did it? Have you actually listened to The Ramones? (They made records as well as t-shirts, y'know.) Sheesh. Disposable rock 'n' roll never felt quite so disposable.
Tonights's performance, an hour of medium-fast rockers that largely feature those half choruses that hang on not so much a smart melody or hook but simply raised volume and more frenetic riffing, is as dull as I've seen on a stage in years. The thirteen year old is sanguine. "They're okay." Just okay? "Mmm." Her friend offers more: "Amazing." Really? "Yeah, but then I think everything's amazing." Ah. Good job I checked. (To be fair, in comparison, most things are.)
Clearly a wave of semi-metal upstarts, all sheltering together under a Vans Tour this and an AP tour that, are daring each other to make music that causes teenagers of the world to coalesce as one unthinking, amorphous mass. Yes, it's rather cool that, in large numbers, the aberrant chart pop scene is having its air supply squeezed. Anything that fires up the kids, its recoil putting distance between them and the shallow thrills of your Bieber and the gender-betraying antics of the Rihanna slattern, is fine by me. But, kids, walk the full length of the counter, eh? Please. Check out the craft on offer from The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus or, even, get to the source of all this muddled fakery with some Blink 182 or Jimmy Eat World. Even better, give the UK scene some support and lend your ears to the excellent Yashin or the promising All Forgotten. But give this dollar-grabbing charade short shrift. The likes of the woeful We the Kings and this lot are selling the cheapest of thrills under some lunatic banner of spirit and heritage. Their teenage fan club deserves so much more than this bandwagonesque larceny.