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STEPPING OUT FROM THE SHADOW
:: Babe Shadow :: Hey Zeus :: Deadbeat Echoes ::
16 June 2010 / The Roadhouse / Manchester
By David Edwards

You cannot easily trace a path into the Roadhouse tonight. It eventually appears in front of you through a haze of barriers, police cones and fading sunlight; a bit like one of those blurred photographs from a tabloid scoop on some soap star who is having an affair with another celebrity non-entity. Placards hung on the chain-mail inform us in big bold letters that we are witness to the historic event of changing Manchester’s antiquated water pipes to provide sustenance for the world of the future. So knowing my opinions about how Manchester tends to hang onto its past a little too much for my liking, it’s impossible to notice that tonight’s show features three new bands who have only a carpetbag of releases out and not a single album among them. So is this the sweet, freely flowing taste of the future? And will a single review go by without me waffling surrealist nonsense and drawing obtuse conclusions? The former is surely more likely than the latter…

I am a sinner and I like pubs. So I happen to walk in just as second band Deadbeat Echoes are starting up. And I’m seriously glad I made it in time for them, as they are absolutely superb. There’s a little too much self-aggrandising in the cocky stage talk but you can’t complain too much when you’re watching something so exquisitely angry, devoted and precise. The swagger round selective totems of punk-rock-riot, Killers dance-angst-epicness and the big pedestal that the Arctic Monkeys built to sneer at the pretenders. The colourful, effects-laden atmosphere that guitarist Anthony Waring inhabits blends perfectly with the vitriolic sneer of lead singer Jack Fearon to create songs of instant punch and persuasion that are superbly despatched in cut-glass precision by a band completely in tune with each other’s tastes, sentiments and styles. It’s an example of exactly what a hungry young guitar band can do if they ignore trends and focus on great music. They’re one to be watched and on the evidence of the truly committed display they put on to a half-empty Roadhouse tonight; they could be one of the big hopes for 2011 around these parts. Immensely promising.

Hey Zeus are a hybrid of constantly rotating styles that are more than good enough to escape the gravity of the frankly ludicrous shorts that the guitarist is wearing (They’re covered in multicoloured fish. I know I rail against bands who try too hard to look cool but there are some limits. Fish shorts?!) Actually, they’re excellent. It’s hard to pigeonhole them as they’re constantly switching it about but they’re something like how Orange Juice might sound if they were covering Bloc Party; finely tuned 80’s guitar/synth wedded to jagged rhythms, razor-wire guitar soloing and deftly constructed melodic bass lines that climb up through the bricks of the songs like ivy. They can also do a fantastic line in epic synth-pop too, as they show on an as yet untitled new song that manages to showcase all of their abilities in four deft, striking minutes. Now where can I get some of those shorts?!

The first thing you notice about Babe Shadow is that they look the part. Almost too much so. Lead singer Tom Cawte is a possessor of the most precisely imprecise hair since Albert Hammond Jr. first staggered onto these shores and the rest of the band look like they’ve been hand-picked from the pages of Dazed and Confused. There are also tattered lycra leggings. To say I’m sceptical is a little like saying Shane McGowan “might have been known to have a quiet drink on certain special occasions”. So it’s a blessed relief when they kick off and are actually pretty good. They’re being touted as having just supported Florence and The Machine but they’re miles away from that sound; instead they rattle along a rail of jaunty jerk-pop with sordid undertones; a bit like Rilo Kiley at their sweetest, third-album Strokes or Modest Mouse when Isaac Brock isn’t in a foul mood. It’s full of big builds, stop-start guitar rallies and all-encompassing sound. They mix it up a little with keyboards and even some quirky little accordion-box contraption for one track. They’re dark chocolate with a sweet little little pop centre and as a combination it works nicely. If there’s one criticism it’s that the choreographed head nodding, fronting up to each other and tandem movements sometimes comes across as a little cynical and contrived, but it’s also equally fair to point out that they deserve respect for delivering a bit of ‘mach schau’ and feisty entertainment on a Wednesday night. It’s hard to see them following in the same dominant high-heel footsteps of their recent tour buddies, but they should be worth keeping an ear on to see if they can transform their live exuberance into something that will stand up prettily on record.


Resources:
Babe Shadow
Hey Zeus
Deadbeat Echoes
High Voltage

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