Electric Guest bring an indie-pop vacuum to The Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen
As the latest band to be branded “the next big thing”, and with an album produced by the often-brilliant Danger Mouse, the appearance of Electric Guest on these shores has rightly been hotly anticipated.
Last night they brought their indie-synth-pop to The Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen. Along with duo Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton, the latest to combine R&B and pop sensibilities with synth, guitars and a falsetto voice (Taccone), it should have made for pleasurable listening.
Yet Electric Guest are a marketing man’s idea of what a modern indie band should sound like; no doubt their songs will be sprinkling a bit of hippyish indie dust over an ad-break near you very soon. You can picture the scene: a menagerie of unfeasibly good-looking people running about on sand dunes with whatever product appears to have set them free.
The problem isn’t the band’s marketability; it is that there is no further substance to them. We coast through various bland songs that seem to have started out as sounding a bit like MGMT before being watered down to the point of a homeopathic remedy, rather than an indie-pop anthem.
Troubled Man is about as convincingly troubled as a character from The O.C., and Under The Gun attempts to funk things up but just piles on more meaningless sugar and yelps of “baby girl”.
Taccone, brother of The Lonely Island’s Jorma, is also a complete charisma vacuum. One song, Amber, sounds like an interesting organ-infused prospect until, with the stage presence of a little brother, you wouldn’t feel bad about locking him away in his room. Ultimately he turned the song into another plodding, emotionless effort.
At one point Taccone half-mumbled something about the crowd being buzzed about Manchester winning the league. It would be rather churlish to criticise Taccone for not knowing that Hoxton is hardly a hot bed of fervent ManchesterCitysupport, but it all had the feel of that moment in The Simpsons where Spinal Tap read the name of the town they were playing off the back of their guitar and got it wrong.
There is a cultural point to be made here: one can understand why Electric Guest’s inoffensive brand of twee Americana has its place across the Atlantic, but here in the UK do we really need more when other bands do it so much better? Every song confirms further their insipidness, perhaps reaching its nadir on American Dreams, which certainly left members of the audience dreaming.
They appear to have been genetically engineered to churn out musical wallpaper. Again, this wouldn’t matter if only there were a few songs that caught the ear or genuinely stuck in the head. After all, the likes of Foster The People also seem to be everywhere, yet whilst Pumped Up Kicks is nigh on impossible to dislodge from the brain, it is difficult to think of an Electric Guest song that even troubles an emotion.
As they closed the set with their one song most likely to be a hit, This Head I Hold, one nearby fan neatly summed up the gig by declaring excitedly, “This is it, this is the one”. The fan had stood through the gig with the rest of us, waiting for the one song which has entered public consciousness, and evidently nothing so far had drawn her in further.
Electric Guest’s hits are assured to be adorning every advert, and no doubt due to those backing them heavily we’ll hear a lot more from them. The truth of last night’s gig though, was that although the audience stared into the indie-pop abyss, they were met with nothing staring back.
Photos: Marco Arias Rua