Review: Black Heart Generator / Japanese Voyeurs / Wiseacre

Black Heart Generator / Japanese Voyeurs / Wiseacre
Birmingham Promoters
The Flapper
21st January 2010

It’s a typical drizzly Thursday night down at The Flapper so its nothing short of a relief that the venue isn’t packed with rabid hardcore fans like the night before.

With a set of brothers on bass and lead vocals, the surname Tregortha sounds like a great band name itself, plumping with Wiseacre instead however the young and local gents bravely take to the stage facing a crowd that seem a mile away.

Looking at lead singer Rich wearing a drab olive coloured hoodie and dark trousers with long blonde hair swinging around him whilst swinging around a white Fender Jaguar, the order of the day seems to be grunge with a modern twist. This stark Kurt Cobain resemblance does instantly bear down and reflect upon on the music with its derivative symbolism throughout a lot of the set but the boys are all very capable musicians and have youth and a rock’n’roll swagger on their side.

‘Black Swan’ distinguishes itself as a particularly good tune with a bassline that traverses the guitar neck beyond low and simple grunge stereotypes. Perhaps what they lack is best summed up as second guitarist Paul Norgrove tentatively steps up onto Rich’s foot high amplifier and soon realises how close his head is to the low ceiling which somewhat takes the sting out of the attitude of the whole hilarious manouvre.

Adding to this absurd spectacle, Rich has no idea of what’s going on until he turns around and dismisses him with a single shake of the head. Again, this is merely a predictable symptom of a band that are just getting themselves comfortable and confident and give them a year, hell, even a few months and a few catchy hooks and these guys will be a welcome and solid addition to the ever expanding music scene in Birmingham. A free CD at the end of the night is a thoughtful and much appreciated gesture / bribe and on record a lot more of their ideas are easier to pick out as opposed to a great big fuzz at The Flapper and are a reassurance that will go on to bigger and brighter things.

Japanese Voyeurs walk on so casually its almost a shock bring about that conviction and soul that Wiseacre somewhat lacked. Their influences appear to be anything heavy and loud from the last 40 years while the band sport predominantly black clothing and beards and long hair as the prefered attire – this kooky and less than original appearance counts for zilch when they hammer through a set of scuzzy and brilliantly loud tunes that sound particularly grunge fuelled and early metal influenced yet they sound fresh and are eminantly danceable.

To add some texture to the detuned guitar and bass thud fuzz is an old school Roland which primarily layers the mess with a derranged hammond organ that is more horror film than Deep Purple and it works brilliantly well. While the whole band exude cool, it is Alice on lead vocals and guitar who really steals the show with a piercing gaze and more balls and guts than the rest of the band combined. Watching her hair flail like a golden octopus fighting for survival is the perfect leather clad, dirty converse wearing resistance to all the hyper-cool Florence Welchs, the Pixies Lotts, the Marinas, the ‘weeell androgynous’ Elly ‘La Roux’ Jacksons and so on and so forth that have arguably handed decent female musicians with an uphill struggle this year.

Alice soars and shrieks and whispers and the audience believe and feel every word. The gut-busting ‘Dumb’ and forthcoming single ‘That Love Sound’ are standout hotties and leave the audience positively vibing from the whole ruckus. With very little chat and patter in between songs it soon becomes clear that Alice doesn’t need to say anything as her blinding performance is an impressive statement in itself.

Black Heart Generator are a band that are completely unassuming and free of pretensions in blue jeans, sneakers and band t shirts. Don’t be fooled though – this is all part of their very endearing charm as the three piece roll off a relentless reel of catchy and enjoyable up-beat indie ditties.

Greg on vocals and guitar and Stu on bass and shouting are a great double act and couldn’t be more different in their approach to performance. Greg is hilariously miserable, gangly and brooding, although struggles to stifle giggles when his friends in the audience shout at him. His morose appearance however doesn’t stop him rushing out into the middle of the floor mid-song and giving it some in one of his many impressive guitar breaks. Stu on the other hand is short, stocky and smiling throughout the whole performance – even when curious audience members venture round to the side of the stage where the equipment sits which catches him off guard every so often.

The first to chat and shake hands with people post show, Stu talks about Villa, music and everything else he can squeeze into a 30 second conversation like an old mate you haven’t seen for a while. ‘Summer Snake’ is one that will definitely get your foot tapping and ‘Love’s Labours Lost’ is a particularly enjoyable indie epic with witty and well observed lyrics and an energy that doesn’t let up – its just a shame there aren’t more people here to enjoy a very solid and consistently entertaining trio of decent blokes as the invisible line where the beam is next to the sound desk is never crossed by cautious gig goers leaving an upsetting chasm of space near the front of the stage. These three lads are back in Brum on February 18th at The Old Wharf so put that one in your diary.

A more chilled and middle of the road affair than the hardcore madness, but another brilliant Birmingham Promoters night nonetheless.

Tim Mobbs

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2 responses to “Review: Black Heart Generator / Japanese Voyeurs / Wiseacre

  1. Very impressed with Japanese Voyeurs, and I reckon you’ve summed them up pretty perfectly.

  2. Thanks pal, there was something about them I just couldn’t quite manage to articulate – something like stage presence or Alice’s aura as a proper front woman or something like that. Really good listen they was.

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