White Town, Arthur & Martha @ Brixton Jamm
White Town, Arthur & Martha.
Brixton Jamm. 24sep09.
Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley line up behind their Moog and Korg synths as Arthur and Martha, with the confidence that comes with knowing they’ve got a triumphantly strong opening three. They put the same three at the start of their album Navigation so their ability to hook-in for the look-in comes as no accident. This is tried and tested sequencing.
Autovia, announced tonight as “I’ve Been Driving In My Car”, is a sauntering daydreamscape that evokes the open road; of late night journeys in icy climes. Musicforhairproducts, which follows, has a similarly reflective swish like, say, Kraftwerk’s Spacelab or Saloon’s Girls Are The New Boys. Cresswell’s vocals aren’t quite as successful in the live environment as Hubley’s, who often brings to mind Amelia Fletcher with her melodic cadence.
Third tune Kasparov is introduced by Cresswell by his asking “Has anyone been watching the chess? How’s Kasparov getting on? … seamless link there” which flags up Arthur & Martha’s innate sense of fun, yet doesn’t detract from the grandeur of their music.
There is also something beautiful about White Town’s sound as well, not that it immediately reveals itself, but there is something plaintive within Jyoti Mishra’s voice that give his songs an extra, subtle hook. Admittedly he looks quite incongruous as a perfomer, a long winter jacket worn on stage over a plaid shirt that billows over his paunch, whilst his face often breaks into a toothy grin as wide as all space.
Yet, and let’s not beat around the bush here, this man has had a bone-fide #1 hit which, in the old money anyway, makes him a pop-star. Not just any old hit either, Jyoti having taken bedroom indie-pop, the kind that usually got no further than the pages of a badly photo-copied fanzine, to the tip of the tip-top pop charse back in 1997 in the weeks between the Tori Amos Professional Widow remix and Blur’s Beetlebum.
You could argue that Baby Bird came from similar roots but he had stalled at #3 with You’re Gorgeous three months prior. White Town’ s Your Woman seemed to come from so far out of nowhere that copies of the single had snow on them. I grant you, it couldn’t have happened without Mark Radcliffe’s eager patronage (back in the great ‘Graveyard Shift’ days with the Boy Lard) or the work of Chrysalis records but the air brush wasn’t taken to it – no Fatboy Slim remix was required to seal the deal.
For many, it will be a long-forgotten one-hit wonder, for others the best #1 of the 1990’s, and what a treat it is to hear it again tonight, sung beautifully and greeted with the kind of cheer that goes beyond nostalgia, revealing a genuine and keenly felt affection for a significant moment in indie-pop history. I won’t crank up the hyperbole to say it’s the most significant #1 ever (to my mind that would be Ghost Town, anyway) but the Your Woman video being played out on TOTP? Thems were good times for the fanzine-writers, tape-compilers and charity-shop threads wearers of my vintage.
Frankly, it’s a treat to hear anything by Jyoti live, considering this is, apparently, his first live performance in London in White Town’s twenty-year history, and appearances anywhere are quite rare. Most of the other material tonight is taken from his most recent album Don’t Mention The War, and considering the live set-up is just Jyoti and his acoustic guitar along with a backing track, they remain compelling, especially Make The World Go Away and Whenever I Say Hello.
These are not the songs of a man chasing the zeitgeist, desperately trying for the burning attention of the spotlight once more. Instead, they show a man happy with his work and to appear at the fringe of the fringes as and when it suits.
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