Of course the main reason for the trip to London was to see the Pants Yell! show at the Bestsey Trotwood. Now I had previously only ever been upstairs at the Betsey, so it was a bit of a shock to see just how tiny and cramped the downstairs part of the venue is. It’s crazy. It reminded me of the basement at the Jolly Porter in Exeter where we did a couple of Glitch nights back in the day (or back in a day), and that’s not necessarily a compliment.
The bands however were mostly a treat, and the company was excellent. It was lovely to finally meet Andrew and the rest of Pants Yell!, and nice to at last properly meet Mark and Lupe from Pipas (their new record is splendid, incidentally). Also a pleasant surprise to meet Darren Hayman, whose records I have long admired of course. Also neat to meet one of the faces behind Friends of the Heroes; it’s always good to find flesh behind virtual connections, as it were.
Of the groups playing, two really stood out for me. First there was Esiotrot, a Brighton based troupe who reminded me variously (appropriately enough) of Hefner, The Tenderfoot and oh, of any host of kids from the past twenty years who ever dreamed of strapping on guitars and being in The Modern Lovers. They also have a song about playing Stereolab, which is kind of cool. Initially I thought the singer was going on about playing the stereo, which actually would have been better still. I used to offer that glib remark whenever anyone asked if I played any music myself. ‘Only on the stereo’ I would reply. Which is about as close as I ever got to being funny and is probably the reason conversations always dried up.
But I digress. Esiotrot look like my sixth form art class would look like if I had one, and sound suitably intriguing. I’m keen to hear more.
Then there was Pants Yell! I’ve written about this trio before of course, and I’m pleased to report that as a live experience they back up the brilliance of their recorded goods with aplomb. There’s a sharper edge to their live performance, which is exactly as it should be of course, and I hear echoes of the likes of Aislers Set (and their forebears Henry's Dress), Fairways, Poundsign and a host of other great lost US Pop. Most of all though it really marks out a lineage that links neatly into the sound of early Go-Betweens, circa Send Me A Lullaby and the Able Label and Postcard singles that bristled with such spiky melodic charms. This is an oft-overlooked period for the Go-Betweens, but it is one that has always filled me with delight. Maybe this is down to my infatuation with the aesthetic of the loose, rough sketch; of my love for dramatically imperfect creations where the lines show through and the mark of the process is indelibly left on the artefact. Well, whatever, Pants Yell! are hewn of the same stone, are the result of explorations through independent Pop’s shambolic history, of stumbling excitedly through the doors of, if not perception then at least of strange darkened rooms lit by bare bulbs that illuminate the rarest and barest of treasures. Pants Yell! are dripping in the residual fall out from the histories of alternative Rock and independent Pop soaked up from the ether. This isn’t to say that they are some fey retro schtick though. No, oh no. For Pants Yell! sound utterly Now. Pants Yell! celebrate the moment like few others can, make a contemporary Pop that sparkles in all the right places and hell, let’s be honest with ourselves here: I’m only mentioning those old reference points because I’m some old git with too many memories. Sue me.
If I were younger I’d be out there wearing my fringe like Roger McGuinn. I’d be earnestly unearthing the past and nodding with pretend knowing at the good sense in decorating T-Shirts with historically valuable individuals like Dan Treacy and Edwyn Collins. I’d be scratching Pants Yell! on my arm with a fountain pen and drawing hearts around my headaches. For those feelings transcend the ages.