Welcome to the first in an occasional series, “Reviews we were too lazy to finish at the time”. You’ll notice this gig was over two months ago. Since it took place, everyone present has lost their hair. Look out for Matt’s legendary I Am Hope review some time in December. Sorry. Photos below were by Simon Ayre, whose timekeeping is exemplary.
It’s a fine line, as a legendary rock figure once posited, between stupid and clever. The same could be said of love and hate, or soup and stew. It could also be said of the line between endearing and outright annoying, a line some might see Misty’s Big Adventure not so much walking as skipping along in a novelty jester’s hat with a jaunty tune in their hearts. This is unfair, of course, even on the dankest of evenings in everyone’s favourite fun palace the Buffalo; on a Friday before a bank holiday, the smiles this almost veteran bunch bring to the faces of fans and first-timers alike, and even one miserable get who thinks he’d rather be at the Barely Regal launch, are testament to an unerring ability to land feet first the right side of that line.
First, though, comes the second gig from the now five-piece Threatmantics. Unrecognisable from the often drunk, usually argumentative, always great folk-punk trio who signed to Domino a couple of years ago, line-up changes have brought a forced re-evaluation which they’re growing into very nicely. A new drummer and a first human bassist, on loan from VEG Club and Gindrinker respectively, and a still-new guitarist, but Taliesyn’s move to occupy centre stage, sharing lead vocals, is naturally the most notable change. Glaring out at the still-gathering crowd from behind a drumkit, dressed like Josephine Baker after a disastrous harvest (i.e. wearing a few tassles and little else), she’s a hugely striking visual addition but also the key musical one. First-album favourites like James Lemain and the blistering closing one-two of Little Bird and Don’t Care, hurtled through as a near-medley with the clock running down, are given new leases of life as duets. Less familiar tunes, presumably from the recently completed follow-up, are even better.
It hardly needs adding at this point that Mistys’ own visual focal point is a fairly divisive one. Suffice to say, he can get right on your tits. This is no more a revelatory observation than the rest of the rubbish I talk, nor would it be to suggest that a great many Mistys songs stand up just fine without his capering. Thing is though, all the mugging, the mock-shock mime-artist faces and Gareth’s studied world-weariness all have this unnerving knack of scribbling childlike sunshiney doodles on your cynicism, screwing it up in a ball and tossing it merrily aside. You think you’ve seen them do this enough times, but they keep on winning you over. The key might be in the variety, the restless sense of invention. After an opening jazz instrumental limbers them up, tune-a-day pop gems like ‘I Can’t Bring The Time Back’ and ‘Story Of Love’ help bed in a handful of new songs. Gareth’s magpie eclecticism manifests with elements of dub, electronica and vaudeville and, in a couple of the new songs, a crystalline 60s pop shimmy hitherto untapped. He takes a back seat for download single ‘Dumbhead’, sung by the girls and if not a thumb of the nose to the Pipettes then enough to put their latest hobbling incarnation to shame.
There is a sense of over-familiarity in sections of the set – the interpretive gooning of (sigh) Erotic Volvo can provoke weariness on the scale of an incessant, finger-prodding office joker, and those not in the mood for his particular enthusiasm eye him up warily from the margins like they would a six-foot revolving novelty bow tie. It’s also fair to say that the once on-point indie ego-pricking of ‘Fashion Parade’ is now as quaintly outdated as the Kaiser Chiefs themselves. These, though, are both fairly churlish points and ones which, like my own initial scepticism at the thought of seeing Misty’s again, are quickly forgotten. Gareth’s slouched-shouldered grumpiness and gently raised eyebrow can’t mask the observational lyrical touch of Neil Hannon or the psychedelic pop nous of ‘Fried’-era Julian Cope. And come half ten, as the dancer passes unnoticed through the stragglers in a Specials t-shirt and jeans, you ponder how they’ve managed it but have to admire the way they carry it off.