Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2011 with Crystal Castles, Magnetic Man, Everything Everything and The Vaccines

Review by Chris Gilliver

Everyone loves to hate the NME, and let’s face it they make it easy. From lumping disparate bands together and falsely calling it a scene to overhyping them and having a superiority complex that could rival Liam “Lennon was right. And we are bigger than Jesus. We will be as big as the Beatles, if not bigger” Gallagher, they are guilty of it all. Check out this review of the latest Decemberists album and tell me that it doesn’t make you want to vomit on the gratingly arrogant, fucktarded reviewer:

http://www.nme.com/reviews/the-decemberists/11818

On the other hand the magazine has the odd ability of attracting human parasites who only go onto the website to criticise uncritically when they themselves are blatant subscribers. Shit attracts flies I guess, but no other magazine attracts such malicious ones.

In some ways tonight’s line-up reflects the NME’s hubris and worst agenda-setting. Openers The Vaccines, sounding like a combination of The Strokes, The Black Lips and Interpol all mixed into are a joyful nod back to the past; Everything Everything and Magnetic Man reflect the contemporary overground underground music scenes respectively; and, presumably, Crystal Castles are a nod to the future. But hey, who gives a flying fuck about any of this when they put on such fascinatingly eclectic mix of acts. Where else can you get dubstep, indie, electronica and Sonic the Hedgehog all on the same bill? Seriously where? On this occasion I tip my hat to the NME.

The Vaccines’ star is in the ascendency, and for good reason. Despite the fact they are as derivative as hell, they have at their helm a great songwriter whose tunes are as catchy as leprosy in the middle ages. For all those who say that indie is dead, The Vaccines present the cure. ‘Post Break Up Sex’ is tonight’s biggest crowd pleaser, entertaining in its simplicity and directness. Have you heard this stuff before? Yes, a thousand times.

Tricky to pin down, and playfully intellectual, mixing indie, electronica and R&B, Everything Everything purposefully subvert the status quo in the polar opposite way The Vaccines propagate it. ‘Suffragette Suffragette’, for instance, is a bizarre mix of Led Zeppelin riffing and tight vocal harmonies and falsetto. For those here well versed in their repertoire they’re a delight, but for the unaware and uninitiated they’re hard work. Whichever side of this line you fall on they are undeniably very talented.

Magnetic Man is the night’s wildcard. They’re badly placed for a 9pm slop. Dubstep is for the small hours when the serotonin is flowing, and the throbbing bass makes you feel like you’re part of the floor, not the mid-evening when the beer hasn’t even kicked in properly. Perhaps the NME should consider putting on full on club nights. As a result they wrong foot the audience. Oddly, either because they do not quite get dubstep or because they’re still digesting their dinner everyone looks bemused, but also, it’s as if they do not want to get caught out not visibly enjoying such a fashionable scene. It’s all slightly comical, or would be if they weren’t so good, especially when they lapse into something more cerebral in the DJ Shadow-esque stuff mid set. Indeed, for all the odd juxtaposition Magnetic Man are probably tonight’s most entertaining act, not least because they are so at odds with everything else.

Crystal Castles on the other hand are the night’s big disappointment. This converted aircraft hangar simply can’t deal with the breadth and depth of their sound – the pounding bass and the extremely trebly top end – and as a result it feels like we’re listening to them from the outside of a boy racer’s souped up Ford Escort as the subwoofer obliterates the sound. It’s a massive shame. The favourites are present, ‘Black Panther’, ‘Alice Practice’, ‘Baptism’ and of course the amazing cover of Platinum Blonde’s hair metal classic ‘Not In Love’, but they are borderline inaudible. Alice Glass is propped on one crutch, having sustained an ankle injury in Tokyo, making her look even more deranged than ever – the performance is compelling, even amusingly puerile when Ethan Kath sticks his middle finger up at the audience at the end of the set, but it’s all in vain, and a massive shame.

Ultimately the fault is the venue’s not the magazine’s – though I’m sure many would love to use this slip up as a hammer to bash them with. We have been both challenged and thoroughly entertained by this line-up. Arguably the magazine is redundant in this. No one but the acts make the music; they are ultimately responsible for the success of the night, but few others have the might to bring such wild variety together on one night, and that is surely something to be celebrated, whatever the NME’s failings.


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