it’s been a while since i visited the Portland Arms. my tattered memory suggests that the previous occasion was possibly 10 years ago, when bluetip played. and cortina. cortina was a band featuring guys from bluetip. they played indie / emo, like christie front drive or something. sadly, there is no demo that i am aware of. if you are aware of it, please send it to me.
anyway, on to more recent events. i really like the Portland Arms, even though it seemed perilously small, or perhaps because of that. it’s cosy, has a nice bar and good beer. after sampling a little of the latter, we made our way into the back room where norwich loocals boys, Pennines, set about opening up and impressing everyone. yes yes, Pennines, stray a little close to American Football’s formula at times, it’s all pleasant guitar twiddling and nice songs – but they do this so much better than their many contemporaries by actually having some song writing smarts and crafting good tunes instead of just widdling away techinically. maybe it’s because they are norwich lads and therefore i have a sympathetic soft spot for them, but i think there is more to it than that. Pennines are good. they also got my hopes up momentarily by playing the first few notes of A Picture Postcard. i quizzed them on this later and it turns out that it wouldn’t take too much prompting for them to play an entire Promise Ring covers set. they’re just lacking a Davey. better get to work on my lisp.
after Pennines was the main attraction for me, the mighty Teenage Cool Kids. belying their cringe inducing monicker, these guys have cranked out two fine LPs already. the first is a youthful, joyful romp – the kind of album that can only be made as a debut. bereft of pretension or a desire to be hip, it simply ropes together the best elements of 90s indie rock, and then uses it as a bungie. this summer’s follow up somehow improved on the formula, showing off a band fully in control, and moulding the clear influences into something very special indeed. would they manage to do this live? would they ever. the gig tonight was one of the most enjoyable i have witnessed in the past few years. they romped through every song i wanted to hear, including the one with the awesome promise ring bass riff off Queer Salutations, you know the one i mean. each song careered off after the previous finished, it could only have been better if we’d all been wedged in the band’s hometown basement with sweat dripping off the pipes. at times i felt like i was the only fool who was really getting into it, but what the heck. TCK were brilliant, exceeded my expectations and had me grinning like a child. one guy in the band even wore a sinaloa shirt. ace.
after all that was algernon cadwallader. algernon cadwallader do not click with me. i think i am probably a bit old, but pretty much everyone else present tonight was hog wild for them. to me, they sound like a mish mash of some bands i really like, but without doing anything remotely interesting with the sound. i am also a little jaded to see that if a band is influenced by late 90s midwest emo, they stop at cap’n jazz and american football. that is a depressingly small amount of influence to take from the most furtile period of indie rock. anyway, i skipped a bit on algernon. i mooched at the bar with Mike to discuss Dillinger 4 and Mike’s forthcoming appearance in the NME. i mooched at the back to discuss the Promise Ring with Jem, and i mooched outside to post pointless messages on the internet via my phone. algernon cadwallader simply was not for me. it’s all a bit dudemo, young guys hi-fiving and back slapping and twiddling their guitars. i don’t get it.
and on that less than upbeat note, i call this entry to an end. i did really enjoy my evening, good people, two great bands and a good venue. i hope it is less than 10 years before i set foot in this place again.