Paul Vickers & The Leg @ Betsey Trotwood
Paul Vickers & The Leg.
Farringdon Betsey Trotwood. 15nov07.
Taking time out for a little diversion after eleven years stoking the fires of the Dawn of the Replicants engine, Paul Vickers has Jake-the-Pegged into a new collaboration, strapping on an extra one for some recording and a live workout refresher. An album ‘Tropical Favourites’ will be released in February but in the meantime they’re off on a brief tour of the UK to build a reputation for gonzoid pop, glaze-eyed DaDa and, well, clearing rooms.
Tonight, they are the quintessential ‘fire-alarm band’. People, mostly here to support the comparatively conservative country-rock types playing prior to, look at each other quizzically before ultimately deciding, on feeling an unfamiliar heat, “yeah, I think we’d better get out”. Only a hardy group of about seven – the eager; the brave; the foolish – remain, comfortable with the risks associated.
Mind you, The Leg in full get-up do appear to be a band content with the idea of people fleeing in a blind panic. In ensemble with dinner-jacket, straw hat and electric cello, Pete Harvey’s full-face balaclava gives him the appearance of a homicidal Sad Sack trapped in a life of black and white minstrelsy. Guitarist Dan Mutch’s facial covering is similar, yet different, less schlock horror and more like an amiable terrorist making some year-out cash by working the Mexican wrestling circuit. Drummer Alun Thomas is the cuddliest of the lot, a pants-headed panda crashing around at the back.
‘Fire-alarm band’ they may be then but that’s not to say Paul Vickers’ voice is a siren or anything. It is utterly distinctive though, like a motorbike revving in a gravel trap or ripping a blue plaster off of sunburnt skin. He is always a genial, if eccentric, stage presence as well, wearing a permanent look of gleeful befuddlement as he links songs with meandering part-improvised stories, such as the Barbara Bananas saga, a tale of a murderous monkey attempting to make her way, by considerable force, to a meeting with Hollywood executives. He also makes the most of the space at the front of the stage to perform a physical theatre routine during their closing number that is part goose-step, part conga-line, part-Frogger and part jig.
These are diversions though from a pretty arresting set of songs such as the desert punk scorcher ‘Umbrella Propeller’; the Eastern European lullaby for real hardcore kickers and screamers ‘When the Wand is Wild’; and the vaudeville banjo/Weddoes jangle/Theremin-tweaked country sway of ‘Bess Houdini’. The fact that they should write a song about the latter’s decision to end her participation in séances a decade after the death of her husband and give it the lyric “ten years is long enough to wait for any man” is a neat indication of what they do best; re-tooling Bizarre magazine enigmas and grotesques for a pie and peas crowd.
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