Pitting major record labels against each other in vying for your signature before reaching the legal drinking age is a hint that things are going well.
Virgin EMI Records eventually won out and signed South Wales indie-quartet Pretty Vicious last January, then just 16 and 17 year olds. Following that, they supported the Manic Street Preachers, did the festival rounds (including Glastonbury) and released two singles.
A Friday night (September 25th) gig in North London’s intimate Tufnell Park Dome saw them illustrate why they pricked the ears of the music world at an age when most adolescents are just about figuring out how to make a G chord sound right.
Swaggering out without so much as a greeting to a mostly teenage audience, they bluster straight into ‘It’s Always There‘. Contrary to a lot of today’s fan-phobic, barriered venues, people here can and do squeeze up to the stage to within touching distance of the music, attentively bobbing to it. What a difference a song can make though. ‘National Plastic‘ (whose hooky riff smells of the Beatles‘ ‘You Can’t Do That‘) revs up limbs into an overdrive as severe as the guitars have on them, prompting moshing that hangs around in some form or other until the end of the show.
It’s not a performance without its glitches. Superficial ones like Jarvis Morgan‘s unruly bass strap during the first song are a minor irritant for him and the roadie on his knees with gaffer tape trying to fix it, while Morgan briefly pauses playing. More of an issue is the vocal mix struggling to be heard over the dense instruments on more than one occasion. Gripes over this from one or two watching go unheeded.
Even so, when confronted so closely by a frontman like Brad Griffith, it becomes rapidly apparent that they require seeing live at least once to be able to relish first-hand the raw, quiet-loud dichotomy of his vocals that a recording can only pass down second-hand.
Any fast and hard teenage indie music is subject to early Arctic Monkeys connotations and the link is palpable tonight in the manner they move around with heads down, backs arched, singing tales of town life (‘Cave Song‘). A cover of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog‘, whilst by default being the best song of the night, doesn’t stand out in the way it could do down to their own numbers holding independent adrenaline in bellyfuls.
Maybe because they haven’t written enough songs to oblige one yet, there is no encore. Nor have they been around long enough to warrant the punk of all endings and smash their guitars up in mock anger, opting to carefully drop them before walking off as brazenly as they walked on.
Elders will say they are too young for this kind of success. Elders once denounced rock and roll as a fad. Don’t listen to them.
Go and watch Pretty Vicious instead.