Asleep In The Back

In preparation for their 2006 Awards, the NME is staging several concerts this week. I shuffled down to the Astoria tonight for one of these.

First up were Larrikin Love. I caught only the last couple of their songs, but I don’t think I missed much. They’re kids, just getting started, I guess. They seemed to be using that ska-influenced rock sound that’s been a part of British pop since punk.

Next was Forward Russia. Although they have the coolest name ever, and a pretty good band – with an excellent drummer – the singer lets them down. He’s got jumping, microphone-cord-twisting-around-self, screamo down pat, but he’s just not very good. Even the melodies and lyrics seem decent for a new band. But there’s too much sameness, and the singer (shouter) is a wank. Last song was good, though.

Big surprise was The Duke Spirit. I’d never heard of these guys, but I thought they were great. Loud guitar noise, kinda reminded me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But fronted by a cool, posing woman with a great voice. She had elements of several strong, good-voiced female rock singers: Debbie Harry, Björk, Grace Slick, and Shirley Manson all came to mind, either in sound or look. I’m gonna look up their rockin’ music.

Big draw were Elbow. Less inscrutable than Radiohead, more down-to-earth than Coldplay, and more than a bit like Doves, I think each new album by Elbow gets better and better. And that was true live, too. Lush rock backgrounds with great melodies, and – in the more recent tunes – some great hooks. Although songs like “Newborn” and “Red” from their first album were well-received by the crowd, I thought songs from last album Leaders Of The Free World – namely, the title track, “Forget Myself” and “Mexican Standoff” – were superb. And they played a new song I hadn’t heard before; I didn’t catch the name, but it was really cool, a slow build of high vocal tension and pinpoint drums.

Elbow have called themselves “prog without the solos”, and that mightn’t be far off. They sounded better live than I’d hoped they would.