Janice Graham Band at Koko Camden for Club NME
There’s a fair amount of hype surrounding this four piece from Manchester. They’re tipped for big things with some famous names weighing in to praise them, most noticeably Mani of Stone Roses/Happy Mondays fame, and Clint Boon.
They have an interesting sound. Many of their tracks are very ‘ska’ driven, with elements of hip-hop, dub and even a little jazz. There are also some solid anthems in there too and they clearly have a lot of different influences. You could draw comparisons between them and bands such as Gogol Bordello, The Cat Empire, The Specials and The Arctic Monkeys, which in one breath, makes for an interesting and varied bunch. It’s not like seeing a gig where all those artists play together though.
This mishmash of styles and sounds can lead to some confusing songs, and opening track Robbery seemed more like a medley than a cohesive tune. They forged ahead with selections from their recent album with energy and confidence, although not a huge stage presence.
At this point it’s worth pointing out that Koko, if you’ve never been, is a huge cavern of a venue with an epically high ceiling and ear bashing PA system that’s strung around the venue and thus inescapably loud. This sound set up works great for brash bands with big sounds, and whilst Janice Graham Band have a real energy it was clear that the intricacies of their songs were being swallowed up in the re-verb and the general echo effect of the venue, especially when it came to the new single Assassiner, which is due out very soon. A quick listen to some previous live performances, posted on youtube confirmed this. Everything comes out much clearer, and has a mellower dub than in-your-face post punk. The juxtaposition between the feel of the songs and the gritty lyrics and punchy vocal style of bass playing front man Joe Jones also felt much more justified and enticing.
The crowd at Koko left much to be desired, the main draw of the evening appearing to be the drinks offers and reduced price student entry that accompany the Club NME night. It was hard to find people that had come for the bands, some didn’t even know that there were live acts playing. This was a shame, but then there was a fair crowd on the dance floor in front of the stage that grew in size and got more and more animated as the set progressed, and hopefully some of those revellers went away with the name Janice Graham Band imprinted in their memories. It also felt like the right kind of demographic for this band, you wouldn’t expect to see them in trendier venues in Shoreditch or Dalston, at least not at this point in their career.
So there are mixed feelings. Janice Graham Band are definitely worth going to see, though probably in a closer, more intimate venue with a less garish sound arrangement. It would be fantastic to catch them on the smaller stages or in some of the tents and bars at the various festivals the UK has to offer, something they have done before and will hopefully do again. They maybe don’t quite live up to the hype of being utterly unique or ground breaking but they are pushing a sound and style onto the live UK music scene that belongs and deserves recognition.
You can check out the band on Facebook.
Janice Graham Band’s new single Assassiner is out September 10th, and you can have a listen here: