Frankie and the Heartstrings

Committing for the Uncommitted More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Blood Oranges, Summer Camp and Frankie & the Heartstrings at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

It is Elizabeth Sankey's birthday and the slimmed down Summer Camp are playing songs from their new ep to a smattering of people in Leeds' Brudenell Social Club. Each track has a vague sound of a brilliance just out of reach and suddenly I am struck by the worry that this will always be the case.

Opening act Blood Oranges do not have this worry. They are a fine but formulaic act. No trees were harmed or pulled up in their performance and that is entertaining but ultimately unengaging. They have an excitement that last for exactly the time they are on stage, no more no less, nothing is out of their reach but their reach is not great.

Likewise main band Frankie and the Heartstrings are a superbly tight band who set out to create a modern spin on fifties rockabilly and - like The Crookes - pull that off. They are a raucous night and good to listen to but what you see with them seems to be what they get.

Summer Camp though promise something iconoclastic. A sly take on pop culture while at the centre of it. The smartness of the kid at school who was sexy because they didn't try to be. They throw out lines of cynical gold. Jake Ryan's "I can't wait to burn your letter" is as good a comment on living through mediated culture as you could hear.

They deserve more, but they have to earn it. Sankey is charming, Jeremy Warmsley a smart partner and to see them commit to being the uncommitted band is almost a tautology but they need to take more care about not caring. It is hard to put the finger on why things do not click live as well as they do on record but undoubtedly the blast of smart brilliance that comes from the speakers is not passed over live, or has not been so far.

As a band they have a lazy way - new song Veronica Sawyer is dreamily sublime - but as much as the band deserve all the plaudits for what they do they need to make sure that what they have in hand does not drift away.

That Summer Camp is more than just one good season for eight sunny week.

Little Comets ask if we really need The Geordie Nation playing Graceland? More

Club NME Specials Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, February 19th, 2010

Little Comets, The Chapman Family and Frankie and the Heartstrings Club NME Specials at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

A few years ago I was in a round table discussion over the new bands of a year that promised Vampire Weekend which someone described as "The Strokes playing Graceland". On hearing the preppy New Yorkers I remarked that they sounded more like Paul Simon playing Graceland and the debate moved onto the way that the beloved NME had a habit of describing bands in reference to other bands conjoined with a few outlandish phrases.

"Debbie Harry punching 10CC in the face with a knuckle duster that was previously used on Led Zep" is great to read but says nothing. Such is the problem with talking about music. One needs references but references pigeon hole and that is far too restrictive for something as sprawled as tunesmithery.

Nevertheless watching NME's wandering night of bands and see Newcastle four piece Little Comets one is forced to ask if we really need The Geordie Nation playing Graceland. Which is not to say that Little Comets are over reliant on the bunch of World Music clich├ęs which have come to be summed up by the word Graceland in the last few years just that the 1986 album would feature in some musical Venn diagram of their output.

So, I speculate, would many other things. They have the regulation indie influences that come strapped to an electric guitar on purchase for sure - a dash of The Libertines colours everything since - but they add to it is smart pop sensibility constructing nice three minute pop songs in a traditional manner. Perhaps that goes through a prism of a circuit in the North East which is rich with esoteric acts and high on narrative drama.

Joanna is the most obviously comparable tune but it is own way the song plays with those comparisons name checking with a knowingness. Do we need a bunch of Geordies playing Graceland? Certainly we do, especially when thrown into such an interesting mix that produces such an enjoyable broth. They are like Sting being force fed mushy peas by Tony Lacey while Diana Ross plays tennis, or something.

One Night In October lives long in the memory and Little Comets one regards a band worthy your attention I would say, and certainly commanding of mine.

Worth someone else's attention are The Chapman Family who strike the right notes for some but not for me. They are a touch on the heavier side although there style varies to a lighter shade at some points during the set. At times drop into a pastiche of Ian Curtis vocals which is a shame. Perhaps they are Joy Division weeping when listening to The Who while queueing for toilet at Guy Garvey's bar. Certainly Guy Garvey's bar's toilets are enough to reduce anyone to tears.

The bassist does mean things to a guitar but the singer should avoid wrapping the mic lead around his neck, it left a curious taste it the mouth. The kids are into them enough for me to say that they are ticking many boxes for many people.

Ticking other boxes are Frankie and the Heartstrings who plough the same furrow as Wild Beasts (...while being licked by Ross from The Futureheads who is drinking Sherry from a bottle he stole from Angela Lansbury) or The Sugars and in the song Hunger they have one of the catchiest things that could buzz into your head. They make a good account of themselves and fill the stage with a confident energy. They have growing to do as a band - perhaps like The Crookes need to they will find they grow away from such obvious rockabilly referencing - but should they expand in the right directions they could be very interesting indeed.