Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Onions, already with albums two and three written remember, play some new songs tonight as part of this Cloud Sounds gig in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. One (‘Carried Away’?) switches from Dick Dale surf antics to Jamaican rocksteady and back again without the blink of an eye. If you’ve heard this year’s debut album “Pleasure Blast” with its frequent tempo and stylistic changes this won’t be a surprise. The trio may start off a little coolly this evening – as tentative as the early doors crowd finding their spot in the loft space room – but once motoring Onions give an impressive indication of what The Shins would sound like if after “Chutes Too Narrow” they relocated to the industrial North of England for factory shift work and pints of ale with a frothy head. Muscular twee?

Sweet Baboo tonight is the band version not the solo performer. However it is not the full full band due to the bass player having a run in with Arriva Trains. So the trio – Steve Black on guitar/vocals, Avvon Chambers on drums and Rob Jones switching from guitar to bass – cover the duties of the four-piece set-up ably even with a missing effects pedal as well as absent bassist. And this is a very muscular (that word again) version of Sweet Baboo. Opening song (and moment of inutterable genius) ‘Morse Code For Love Is Beep Beep, Beep Beep’ is belted out with foot-popping dance moves; the heartbreaking ‘If I Died Would You Remember That You Loved Me’ is turned into a swinging Modern Lovers-style up-tempo run-through. There are some slower ballads amongst the new songs from forthcoming album “Ships” but I’ll remember this more for the edge, oomph and characteristic wit. As Steve Black himself said “that sounded... pretty swish”.

The Sweet Baboo Set List:
Morse Code For Love Is Beep Beep, Beep Beep / I’m A Dancer / If I Died Would You Remember That You Loved Me / Swimmingly Wildly / Balloon Ride To Rome / 8 Bit Monsters / 12 Carrots Of Love / Come On Let’s Mosh

In 2008 when I first saw Rob ‘The Voluntary Butler Scheme’ Jones he sold me a brown paper bag, decorated with kindergarten paint-shapes and containing a four-track CDR. This year he released his new single ‘Brainfreeze’ as an app. Such bold technological advancement does not necessarily match the musical trajectory of The Voluntary Butler Scheme which has followed its own charmingly idiosyncratic flight-path. Tonight’s gig is performed as the five-piece band version of The Voluntary Butler Scheme (only their second live outing apparently. Or is that this tour?) rather than the inventive one-man-band version of old. And after the cut-up chip-core experimentation found on second album “The Grandad Galaxy” most of tonight’s brief nine song set feels closer to the winning first album formula of Tamla Motown spliced with DIY bedroom pop from Dudley. This could be the ‘limitations’ of a band and playing to the strengths of having five musicians (twin trumpet voluntary, saxophone solos, Jackson Five guitar licks etc) rather than loop station playfulness.

So that new record could yield some further surprises yet (although I doubt it will be in a brown paper bag) but for tonight this was a great demonstration of the joyful party-popper detonation of melody and pop hooks found in both new and older songs. As with Sweet Baboo, there’s a lyrically askance even surreal take on reality which is slightly at odds at the blokey jeans-and-T-shirt normality of the performers but the music is truly transporting: euphoric yet grounded. A great (and great value) evening of pop nous and charm.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme Playlist:
Multiplayer / Brainfreeze / New song / Tabasco Sole / A Million Ways / Don’t Fight It, Feel It / So Tired / Smoke Alarms / Trading Things In

1 comment:

Adam said...

Nice review and videos. Thanks for posting them. I was at the gig and really enjoyed it.

I was surprised to see it was a full band, was expecting a lone guy with a big keyboard haha. Was great.