Orphans and Vandals @ Bloody Awful Poetry, London, 23 April 2009

April 29, 2009 by  

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If 2009 is the year of bleepy indie-disco music, then those of a more artistic disposition may be feeling a little left out. Already this year the Noisettes seem set to conquer the charts with their mastery of repetition and simple harmonies, yet poor old poet of the people Pete Doherty, doesn’t seem to be even making a minor dent with his latest offering Grace/Wastelands. So what is left for those who yearn for lyrical substance and an ounce of artistic integrity? Well if you’re that way inclined you can’t go far wrong with Orphans and Vandals. The London based five piece have been blending the low key garage rock of The Velvet Underground with the diverse musical arrangements of Arcade Fire for some time now. Tonight they celebrated the launch of the debut album ‘I am alive and you are dead’ at equally arty Bloody Awful Poetry.

As the band begin to play ‘Metropes’, the packed out Madame Jo Jo’s crowd, huddle round the small stage to get a glimpse of the dark music emitting from it. Their sound is incredibly morose and at times frightening, and as AL’s lyrics become increasingly intense and violent you can’t help but be drawn in. The monotonous drone of the music builds the performance’s intensity and allows the lyrics to become hypnotic. As they continue with ‘Christopher’, those at the back are so compelled by the melancholic music, that they clamber onto chairs and benches to get a heightened view of proceedings, but are quickly reprimanded by the bar staff.

Apart from sounding like the Doors jamming with The velvet underground, with a healthy injection of the Arcade Fire, what strikes you the most about this band is front man Al Joshua’s likeness to the lyrical presence of Lou Reed. Given that most comparisons with Lou reed are often based on sounding slightly pissed and a bit gravely – Julian Casablanca for example- the link is usually considered rudimentary, yet with Al Joshua, it’s more of a second coming. Al’s poignant and insightful lyrics are as beautiful and as much of a painting of the bohemian lifestyle that you will find this side of the 1960s.

It’s been years since London has sounded so fresh and exciting. As the strings of ‘Argyle Square’ begin to play, you can’t help but get an incredibly romantic and uplifting image of the capital. Yet, on final song of the night ‘Terra Firma’, the stories are once again derived from the murky underworld. This epic poetical journey, held over fragile strings and a subtle bass line, is one of the most exciting and engaging portraits of London heard in years. As we leave the venue we can’t help but feel that Orphans and Vandals are one of those rare bands that manage to combine compelling and intricate music with utterly mesmerising storytelling.

By Chris Cummins
Photo by Josefine Stangberg


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