Black Box Recorder @ Luminaire
Black Box Recorder.
Kilburn Luminaire. 18feb09.
Black Box Recorder never actually split, never made a brash announcement, even though you might think them just the type that would. Well, specifically, that Luke Haines would be just the type that would, being a bit of a contrarian, grumpy of jowl and dismisser of the popular fad. His recently published autobiography Bad Vibes: Britpop And My Part In It’s Downfall, will fill in any gaps you may have.
Haines has worked through a number of provocative bands, through The Auteurs’ savant suaveness, Baader Meinhof’s abrasive pop and his maverick solo vision. However it has been as one third of Black Box Recorder, alongside former Jesus & Mary Chain type John Moore and vocalist Sarah Nixey, that Haines has enjoyed his biggest successes. That is if one measures success on chart places alone as the Auteurs, despite only skirting the outside of the Top 40, were a band that one feels are ripe for rediscovery and further laudation.
Yet the top twenty placing for BBR’s The Facts Of Life single clearly resonates, Haines displaying peacockishly, yet underpinning his feathers with devilish sarcasm, when introducing it tonight simply as “the hit.” Aside from that Haines says little, Nixey pulling focus despite both he and Moore being kitted out in bolo ties and sharp dress suits, all in front of a Union flag featuring, in giant silver lettering, the slogan “Rock N’ Roll Not Dole”. Moore occasionally pipes in with a dry aside, designed to playfully jab under the ribs of his band mates.
A new Black Box Recorder record is apparently now on the way after their five years out of the picture, all being active with their own projects, so it’s probably just as well that big declaration never came. Some of the songs are premiered tonight, such as Do You Believe In God?, introduced by Moore with “If this isn’t #1 at Christmas, we’ll definitely know the answer to the question.”
The new songs, on this display, share more with the band’s 1998 debut record England Made Me, than either of it’s successors, The Facts Of Life and Passionoia, the synths and samples backing tape being either low priority or low mixed at the beginning of the set, meaning that The English Motorway System is more of a chugger than a glider.
As such, the real successes of the night are the earliest material, particularly the cold, dead lullabies England Made Me itself and Child Psychology with it’s passionless refrain of “life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it.” Nixey vocals are as captivating as ever, emotionless and deadly, yet soft and glacial. Although sometimes it doesn’t quite pull together, such as with 2003’s The New Diana, which appears in the encore and feels lifeless in a way they would not have intended, they remain poker faced purveyors of concept art, their frissons of excitement contained in their deadpan outlook. Black Box Recorder warp their pop music but, and this is their secret, no more than is strictly necessary.
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