Rockin' Around The Clock

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Ghost of the Robot

Kentish Town Forum, 14/05/04

On the whole, 'celebrity' rock bands are not advisable. Exhibit A would be Keanu Reeves' laughably awful Dog Star (a name that came with its own guaranteed joke, which was used often). Exhibit B would be Russell Crowe's turgid 40 Odd Foot of Grunts (a name that remains impenetrable to all but Mr Crowe and his band-mates.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I set out to observe Exhibit C, Ghost of the Robot, a band fronted by James Marsters (best known as Spike from uber-cult smashes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel). For the record, I still think it quite the silliest name for a band I've heard in ages, making this Californian five-piece sound like nothing so much as a Kraftwerk covers band.

After a somewhat traumatic journey to the venue (and a big thanks to the London Transport guys at Kentish Town Tube for their help in sorting out our little difficulty), Strangelittlegirl, Leopardskinfynn and myself found ourselves in one of the strangest audiences it's ever been my privilege to be a part of. There were inevitable Spike clones, of course (one of whom who was completely undeterred by his diminutive stature, but without doubt the scariest part of the evening was the Scary Goth Mothers - there were many inadvisable Goth outfits on those of an unsuitable age - my particular favourite was the leather basque and tutu with cowboy boots outfit being worn by a woman who had brought her mother in a startlingly similar outfit. Most of this audience had clearly come to observe heart-throb Marsters at close quarters, though in fairness due to the rarer-than-hens-teeth nature of UK releases for GOTR material in Britain, I doubt more than a dozen people had ever heard the music itself before the night. And let's be honest, SLG and LSF were only really there to engage in a little Vic Reeves style thigh-rubbing.

Marsters is a certifiable star, it must be said, and his voice is a pleasant surprise. It must be said that he does love himself just a little (and, it should be pointed out that it is not good form to sniff underwear that has been thrown at you, Mr Marsters). Pleasingly though, this is not a case of James Marsters and a bunch of mates who are riding his fame to stardom, but rather it appears to be a band who took advantage of a chance meeting with a then out of work actor who can sing to augment their line-up. Indeed, the proof of this is the two numbers when Marsters steps aside to allow guitarist Charlie DeMars to handle the lead vocals. The band suddenly appears much smaller and less sure of themselves and DeMars struggles to be heard over the band. To their general credit however, the band do appear to be revelling in the gig, which is by their own admission the largest they have ever played.

The music itself is a non revolutionary rock sound that appears to draw its main inspiration from shoe-gazers such as Ride with a dash of added Mock Turtles, but it was sufficiently interesting to prompt me to buy a copy of the band's debut album, 'Mad Brilliant', which is, I suspect, more than be said for anyone who ever saw Dog Star play. On the other hand it is doubtful that I will feel the need to buy a copy of their forthcoming album, or indeed ever consider going to see them play again.

With the world of Spike now consigned to the past (for the time being), it may be that Marsters will have time to devote to the band. They can only improve for that effort, and may yet transform into something rich and strange.

Not rich but definitely strange would be a good description of London based MAB, a four-piece Italian all-girl Goth-Metal band who are gigging frequently in the capital at the moment. Although their debut ep, 'Unstable Dream' reveals a penchant for the warped and a well developed sense of melody, their live shows suffer from indifferent sound mixing and they have a tendency to come over as a less subtle version of Girlschool, albeit they do have the added attraction of having a tendency to perform in nightgowns and lingerie. One hopes that this is merely a passing phase, as it could soon become a millstone that will weigh the band down - they represent a large enough novelty in themselves being a self-supporting female rock band without resorting to these tactics. It must be said that they would also be well advised to stop playing as third support act to bands that are on the verge of being signed and get out and play some less salubrious gigs of their own. They need a larger fan base than the one they have the moment, and they need to play gigs where that fan base can get to hear them - their last two gigs have been so full of record company liggers present to see the headliners that their own fans have been turned away at the door.

Also gigging round London are the People's Revolutionary Choir, an indie-rock band of such classic sound that they have recently been taken under the wing of Jim Reid and Ben Lurie of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Vocalist Lul Townsend is a star in the making, even managing to get a round of applause for falling off the stage, while his brother Jim provides the song and a guitar attack of fairly huge proportions. Underpinned by a thundering rhythm section of Josh Brandon on Drums and Rosh Moliko on bass, this is a band that has all the hallmarks of being one to watch.

Definitely not woth watching are Terra, a band that find new ways to define the word awful. A vocalist who writhes on the floor for no apparent purpose and a bassist who has been to bass-posing school do not a band make. That the sole dancer at their gig was the bass-players girlfriend perhaps says all that needs to be said about this sad outfit.

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