Musical taste is a strange and wonderful creature. Not content to divide bands between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ there’s an annoying subset I call ‘good on paper but you’d rather not actually listen to them, y’know?’. Catchy, isn’t it? These ones tick all the right boxes and should be right up your metaphorical alley but something doesn’t click and the chemistry isn’t there.That was the Test Icicles for me. On paper there was so much to recommend them – they made an almighty, parent-baiting racket, had stupid names, lacked anything approaching professionalism and split after one album. Oh, and theirs is the only wikipedia entry that has ever made me laugh (History, para 3). But for all that my heart didn’t like them as much as my head said it should.
I’m pleased to say I have absolutely no such reservations about Lightspeed Champion, the Dev Hynes-shaped phoenix that has risen from the ashes of the Test Icicles. After finding out that they were the ‘special guests’ the tickets coyly alluded to I made an extra special effort to get down to see them, remembering Ben Goldrun’s glowing write-up (and, um, not entirely dissimilar opening paragraph) from July.
Dev is a charismatic presence, rambling entertainingly between songs, leading a chorus of boos at their manager for forgetting some promo CDs and, not least, leading a fantastic band. There was something absolutely captivating about them. It sounds daft trying to explain it but the band’s sound was just perfectly poised, with each member projecting their sound into their own particular space, not clashing with the others but balanced with them. That sounds rubbish, I know but it’s the nearest I can get to explaining it.
The songs themselves were country-flecked folk-pop, not the sort of thing you’d expect from the Test Icicles genre-agitator but there’s no restriction in the arrangements or the lyrics. I didn’t catch many of the song names but there were no highlights as such to report; the whole thing was, in the words of Ben Goldrun “the kind of set that makes you realise why you fell in love with music in the first place”.
Which all added up to a pretty hard act to follow, I didn’t envy Good Shoes at all. They certainly haven’t got the stage presence of their support, in fact if you want proof that getting ahead in rock n roll has nothing to do with looks and charm then here you are. It’s the tunes that matter though isn’t it? Luckily, for all the despondency of the subject material (the band are from the arse-end of London and want you to know about it) their songs are imbued with invention and energy which the crowd lapped up.
The slightly clinical feel of their debut album isn’t recreated on stage, things have been beefed up a little to give the crowd something to dance to, and dance they do. Photos is given more bite, Mordon provoked some raucous crowd-surfing and Never Meant To Hurt You got the most hips wiggling. Enough time has passed since All In My Head’s radio ubiquity to make it enjoyable again too.
What I liked about Good Shoes was that although they seem to try to complicate the tunes they come up with as much as possible, they aim to please the feet as much as the head and for the most part they succeed. Their slightly-leftfield-of-Maximo Park-ish sound is never going to take them to the big time but they’re putting in the effort to be distinctive which is something you can’t say for many of their peers.
It’s just…they were ok, they were fine, in fact at times they were really quite good, but I didn’t hear anything to stop me wishing Lightspeed Champion were still playing.