Friday, February 24, 2012


I’ve written about both Standard Fare albums on here plus run a Q&A with Emma and Dan in September 2010 but until tonight I had never seen them live. And despite the overdue nature of this encounter, I’m pleased to say the Sheffield-based trio did not disappoint. There’s a casual nonchalance to Standard Fare on stage – plainly dressed, nothing showy, no stage moves, no between song chat except putting down a brief moment of anti-Yorkshire sentiment – but as the nine song set progresses they subtly but surely up the aggression – and the shouting - on their spiky power-pop punch.

My only quibbles: no ‘Suitcase’ and no lighting. What is that strange ‘etiquette’ that forbids opening acts to have the same lighting state as following bands? To my mind, Standard Fare should not only have the spotlights but should be headlining venues this size. Sheer class.

This Many Boyfriends are another band I hadn’t seen previously live and only know via the odd song from compilations. But an opening song called ‘I Don’t Like You (‘Cos You Don’t Like The Pastels)’ and a new song called ‘Tina Weymouth’ instantly endear the Leeds-based four piece to me. This Many Boyfriends could almost be a walking indie-pop cliché: said Pastels reference, a song about being bullied at school and a new single released as a fanzine. But there’s a punkish energy, a we’re-uncool-but-we’re-going-to-enjoy-ourselves-anyway vibe and great deadpan Beat Happening/Moe Tucker drumming behind it all that for me was a winning recipe. This was their first gig since November – and only five months since the tragic death of band mate Peter Sykes – but it all felt positively fresh and upbeat. Two singles bought, I await the album eagerly.

Now Allo Darlin’ are a much more familiar prospect live and on record but tonight they are touring their new album “Europe” which is not out until May. But lack of familiarity is no barrier to enjoying their excellent set – six new songs plus older favourites. They open with current single ‘Capricornia’ which still delivers on its promise to sound “
somewhere between 'A New England' by Kirsty MacColl and 'Cattle and Cane' by The Go-Betweens”. Other new songs are more subdued or reflective like the quiet, almost acoustic ‘Some People Say’ which contrasts with the bouncy energy of ‘The Polaroid Song’ or ‘Dreaming’ but the smart song-writing still shines through.

Three-quarters of Allo Darlin’ maintain the dress-down, no frills casualness of this evening. But Elizabeth Morris is a world apart, an unassuming but magnetic front-person in short black dress and Doc Martens who can switch between the skipping joy of ‘Kiss Your Lips’ (here added in before final song ‘ Heart Like A Drummer’) and the heart-breaking, closed-eye stillness of Go-Betweens cover ‘Dive For Your Memory’. I’ve seen Allo Darlin’ consistently livelier on stage before night but as the enthusiastic cheers seemed to agree, as the breadth of their song-writing expands they can still maintain the assured quality. ‘Indiepop’ can be a dead-end street of a tag but tonight showed three very different takes on how vital and smart and varied it can be.

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