Palladium/Alphabeat @ Bar Academy, 2/02/08

“We’re Alphabeat and we play pop!” Yes, they sure do! Alphabeat are a pop band who are in the habit of stating the obvious. Six fresh-faced, energetic Danes who do exactly what they say they do. There’s no angst, subtle subtexts or navel-gazing, just honest to goodness, perky nonsense with more bounce to the ounce. You may have noticed they were a CDX top tip for 2008 and for good reason seemingly.

The boy-girl double-act of Anders (tallish, tambourine-holding dervish) and Stine (cute, Scandanavian pixie-girl) works fantastically. They dance around to the tight band behind them who produce some appropriately gleeful tuneage to keep the front pair and the crowd bopping along.

From Fantastic 6 and Boyfriend (“This is a song about having a boyfriend, it’s called… Boyfriend!” – dig the literalism) though to the final song and new single Fascination (Footloose v I’m So Excited) there’s no real let-up, even for what they claimed was their slow song. That’s a good thing though – what sounded a mite twee on record was just brilliant party music in the flesh.

I thought they were great and as long as the sugar doesn’t turn to saccharine I can see this bunch topping my list of the year’s unashamedly guilty pleasures. Put it this way – if I was putting together my ideal birthday party there would have to be jelly and ice-cream and Alphabeat.

So, after the sugar rush comes the crash – enter Palladium. Look, if you like Palladium and you want to read nice things about them then go to their Myspace page and check out the comments section instead. I’d rather you did that than read on and get upset because chances are you’re very young and screechy.

Now, if you’re still reading then you’re doing so because you want to know my opinion, understood? Firstly, I take no pleasure in criticising bands. If someone’s got the balls to write some songs and then stand on a stage and sing them then who am I to stand on the sidelines and snipe? What I was going to do was be kind and mention that Fez, despite his guitar playing moves edging into Napoleon-Dynamite-dancing territory, can really play. So can the rest of the band in fact – they sounded impressively tight and had decent stage presence – Bar Academy’s tiny stage was a bit limiting for them if anything. They all have rockstar names too.

However, the songs were not good. I could’ve dealt with that but there came a turning point from ‘quite weak’ to ‘get me out of here’ when singer Peter followed a truly flaccid, otherwise forgettable song by leaning into the microphone and announcing that “we’re going to break things down now, see we’ve written a part 2 to that song and we’re going to do it now”. That’s when I broke and decided that there’s no point sugarcoating it and I should just be honest.

Let me do this quickly then. They have no songs that stand out as being adequate. Peter has an weak, reedy voice which disappears when he tries to sing out of his narrow range, which is often. The music is lowest common denominator indie piddle, but you get the impression the music isn’t integral to the whole ‘band thing’ here so what the heck. They came back for an encore despite hardly anyone asking them to. The final “experimental” (their word) song sounded exactly like the rest of their set for the first 3 minutes but ended on a terrible 2 minute bass solo that actually made me laugh – Level 42 are alive and well, yay!

Alright, so most of the crowd were very young and they screamed when the band took the stage – two of them had sparkly Palladium-branded visors and someone had brought a banner – and they might’ve cheered for an encore if they knew that’s how things work at gigs. Clearly the band have some appeal but it wasn’t evident to me, not by a long shot.

What was evident is that the kids aren’t out binge drinking, taking drugs and having recklessly fantastic sex after all (well, duh). No, they’re getting down to safe, bland, sexless, MOR shite. Why, when they could be ripping a place up and punching themselves stupid to someone like Does It Offend You, Yeah?, I have no idea and frankly I despair.

Anyway, I feel like a low-rent Simon Cowell now so let’s finish on a good note – Alphabeat are ace! Yeah!

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

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