*Photo: Plasticines @ The Borderline, February 8 - courtesy of Talia Kranes
At the beginning of an exciting week of new music for London Liked, Plasticines rocked The Borderline in stylish, punky fashion. Last Monday (February 8) Katty Besnard led the terrific young French female quartet with raw AC/DC attitude and tambourine shakes that certainly kicked the efforts of former Oasis warbler Liam Gallagher into touch.
Four women from just outside Paris sporting an unashamed swagger and who met at a Libertines gig. Can this only mean impressionable teens down the front and trying-to-pretend-they’re-not-perving men filling the rest of the small, but lively Borderline? Partly. It would be easy to write off Plasticines as Long Blondes via Ladyhawke with a Gallic twist at first listen but that is to undersell their charm. Parisians seem to be stereotyped as cold, stylish and irascible, but Besnard and her bandmates (guitarist Marine Neuilly, bassist Louise Besillien and drummer Anais Vandevyvere) charm the tough, disconcertingly quiet school night crowd effortlessly, but with the obsequiousness that makes, say, Robbie Williams or Mika such a grating live prospect.
Now on their second album Plasticines have the confidence and tightness that mostly only comes with experience, specifically experience up on stage. From the recently released About Love album, former single Bitch shines in lean, snake-hipped fashion. It’s got drive and with a title like that, sassiness is almost a given. Besnard sings like PJ Harvey, even if the riffs and rhythms recall Gossip. Saucy. *Runnaway meanwhile sounds like The Go-Gos whilr Another Kiss is extraordinarily good fun, almost as though The Ting Tings returned and decided every song they wrote would match the quality of Be The One.
A brief word about their covers to end. You’re No Good, originally performed by Betty Clark in 1963 but covered by everyone from Elvis Costello to Van Halen, has the righteous party feel of The Knack’s unassailable My Sharona. Almost as good was the mademoiselles version of These Boots Were Made For Walkin’. Not quite as seductive as the Nancy Sinatra take, but what is? And no, “Geri Halliwell’s cover,” is not an appropriate answer.
By Wednesday (February 10) a change in direction was needed. So? London Liked has always kept dubstep at a distance. It’s been around in various forms for half a decade on pirate radio stations across London, sounding to casual listeners like dark garage gone dub-minimal or jungle with slower beats. Crude terminology to the afficiandos of the scene maybe, but the big question on many a ravers’ lips is simple. How do you dance to something with difficult, often slow time signatures?
With any serious consideration this question falls down like an obese man drooling in front of Greggs. Drum ‘n’ bass is hard to dance to if you don’t pick one beat to follow, say a snare a bar. With dubstep, like d ‘n’ b, is all about picking a drum sound or bassline you can follow and sticking to it. If the tune’s too slow, make like Marley and get skankin’. Easy when you know how.
Deviation was the dubstep destination last week and it the scene finally made sense. The brooding, minimal stuff Mercury-nominated Putney producer Burial became respected for was at a minimum in favour of basslines Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry would weep over and acid synth meltdowns electro DJs would cheerfully steal. Gramaphone in Commercial Road was as lively on a Wednesday as could be expected on a Friday night. DJ Zinc, who heard his ace Ms Dynamite-featuring single Wile Out dropped enjoyed himself, while even superstar producer Mark Ronson got his crunk on. All that speaker pressure surely made a difference from producing soul-pop classics for Amy Winehouse, at least. Deviation happens once a month, but it’s worth feeling ropey at work the next day to attend.
Lowlife is another big underground name that’s been around for donkeys in The Big Smoke. Yes, it’s the name of a series of venerable underground parties rather than a sub-genre of urban music, but hey - start your own blog if you don’t like tenuous linking**. Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, a pair known as much for their formidable DJing skills and sterling club culture books as they are for their superior knowledge of dance music, set up Lowlife in 1995. It’s a word-of-mouth event, which always sells out despite the dearth of advertising.
Anyway, again London Liked was virginal before the night.*** But in brief, the warehouse party feel, ragged but atmospheric venue, friendly punters, complete absence of bad attitude (even among security) and uniformly excellent music made Lowlife a winning night.
There’s bound to be more about the night, its two founders and the fantastic house music on here in future. Especially as the next Lowlife is the 15th anniversary…
*though the double ‘n’ is unlikely in use to distinguish it from the excellent Del Shannon song.
**Actually that’s a great name for a blog.
***OK, it’s not cool to be a Londoner and admit to never having been to a dubstep night or Lowlife, but in my defence, I have done a few cool things in my life, some would say many, considering my social, intellectual and financial handicaps. By that I obviously mean my ability to say and do idiotic things with unerring frequency, my ability to squander money stupidly and my seeming inability to regularly earn what most people would consider to be a decent income.