The entirety of the audience are blind-sided by opener Andy McBurney. Beginning his set with a glacially-paced wordless electric guitar dirge, there are rumbles from the crowd about how extremely awkward this guy is. He then breaks down into tears. As it turns out, Andy is a comedian specialising in hilarious (yet extremely awkward) broken-hearted life reflections. An unexpected triumph.
Something that strikes you straight away is how Canadian the Birmingham duo Sonic the Comic sound. Like Broken Social Scene on a sugar rush, just with a lot less members. Their chirpy spikey songs would have fit in great on the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World soundtrack, especially given that most of their songs seem to be about video games. Though the twee-ness may grate some ears, Sonic the Comic have a definite charm.
Many indie-rock bands have dwelled in the ironic slacker temperament, from Pulp to more recently Parquet Courts. Radstewart may be one band too many. Coming off as a middle class Pavement, their cool detachment translates live as bored and dispassionate. Everything about their sound reminds of better bands: Nirvana, The Fall, and even Art Brut while their song ‘Student Wiccans’ straight up steals the intro from The Lemonheads’ ‘If I Could Talk I’d Tell You’. Able musicians, but where’s the originality? Where’s the heart?
Since the release of their debut Waited Up ’til It Was Light in 2008, Johnny Foreigner are basically regulars at The Flapper. As such, during the slowburn sparse intro song of unreleased track ‘You Can Do Better’, the faithful give the band nothing short of a heroes’ welcome. As pretty as some of JoFo’s slower tracks are, ‘Le Sigh”s distorted punk jangle shows exactly where the band excel: lightspeed. A chorus of voices echo the song’s key lyrics of “Every playlist came with a cost/you got the Peace that you deserved”. There is further mass singing for ‘Riff Glitchard’, to the surprise and delight of the band, as its partner album was only released two weeks previous.
Playing half of new album You Can Do Better, Johnny Foreigner fizz with freshness, especially on the hyperactive assault of ‘Shipping’. On the new songs is where new-ish guitarist Lewes Herriot makes himself known. The extra sonic layer adds muscle to the band’s live sound, forever dismissing claims of being merely feeble indie-poppers. An entertaining, if random, addition to the band is visualist Ben Rausch. While dancing and smiling manically in the back of stage Ben controls the band’s back projection with a Roland AX-7 keytar.
Singer Alexei Berrow, before ‘Salt, Pepa and Spindrella’, jokes that it is from back when they were nearly famous. After two minutes of build, the band unleash the song’s climax to absolute chaos; a mixture of coo-ed ‘do do doos’, guitar freakout, massive drums and flying bodies. ‘The Coast Was Always Clear’ is a perfect closer with its extended coda giving ample opportunity to wear out the last of one’s voice. Though an 11 song set may seem a bit lacking, Johnny Foreigner are energetic, loud and not taking themselves too seriously. A night of pure joy.