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The Sexual Objects

Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
Thu January 29th
Five stars

“This song is side 1, track 3 of our new album in case anybody's not
heard it yet,” drawls Davy Henderson from behind Factory-issue shades
introducing the wiggy wonders of his song, 'Kevin Ayers'.  The joke
being, of course, that unless the mystery bidder who paid £4,213 in an
eBay auction for the sole vinyl copy of the Sexual Objects' second
long-player, Marshmallow, is in the room, none of the hundred or so
mixture of the faithful, the curious and the recently converted
squeezed into Sneaky Pete's bijou confines are likely to have heard a
note of it.

The punchline of this conceptual gag is made even better by Henderson's
louche delivery and baroque phrasing. As with all his between-song
asides, this  makes him sound like a charisma-blessed distant relation
of 1970s TV gangster Charles Endell Esq doing a Lou Reed stand-up
routine. Which, even without the songs, is sheer performative joy.

This Thursday night triple bill for the UK-wide Independent Venue Week
may have been the last of Sneaky's shows to sell out, but it was
arguably the one that mattered most. Henderson, after all, is a key
figure in the original Sound of Young Scotland, ever since his band
Fire Engines harnessed the energy and adrenalin rush of the new sound
of now with a thrillingly primitive reinvention of pop-art post-punk.

Henderson went on to the high-production gloss of Win, before coming
back down to earth with the dark noir of The Nectarine No 9. Throughout
such adventures, snatches genius inspired by Marc Bolan, Prince and
Todd Rundgren could be heard in album-loads of parallel universe smash
hits that forged the sunshine-dappled pre-punk swagger of The Sexual
Objects in 2008.

Seven years on and following game support from electro-pop duo Miracle
Strip and the punk-funk agit-pop of Snide Rhythms, with the night
magnificently framed by a pre and post-show soundtrack of John
Coltrane's A Love Supreme and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, a veritable
rock and roll circus ensues.

It creeps up on you quietly, as Henderson, sporting a t-shirt bearing
the legend, 'Cream Split Up', which also gives the SOBs the title of
their forthcoming 10” instrumental supplement to Marshmallow, hunches
over his guitar eking out the fragile little guitar patterns that open
'Shadow of A Jet Plane.'

By the time Henderson's plaintive vocal creeps in, the room is pin-drop
quiet, only to be blasted into orbit when the band kick in with a
four-man vocal line that's part terrace chant, part call and response
doo wop.

The following Cincinatti Blooms and the aforementioned Kevin Ayers,
both from Marshmallow, reveal a band on fire, the three guitar
frontline twisting and turning their way through a set of complex
arrangements, each texture given a fresh rawness in a live setting.

Henderson's own wig-outs, which he invariably delivers from  a kneeling
position or else punching the air with peace signs, are given depth and
weight by Simon Smeeton's acoustic, while Graham Wann offers up some of
the most tasteful lead playing since Malcolm Ross twanged his way from
Josef K to Orange Juice and beyond. All this is given sass and verve by
the throb and bounce of Douglas Macintyre's bass and Ian Holford's
drumming.

While things slow down for the velveteen melancholy of Marshmallow's
title track, this is a pick and mix set, with selections from the SOBs
2010 debut album, Cucumber, included, as well as two cuts from Cream
Split Up. The latter allow full vent for guitar heroism on Fenella
Fudge, while the tellingly named Ron Asheton, named after the late
Stooges guitarist, provokes beer cans to be shaken and a brief burst of
pogoing. The fact that such a response comes from former Fire Engines
and Win drummer Russell Burn while watching out front gives things an
even more visceral edge.

Despite the titles and lyrical reference points to Davy Graham and
Judee Sill, the SOBs go beyond homage or hero worship to make such
tropes their own, often blending several decades worth of
glam-beat-punk-arama into the same song. In this way, the material from
Marshmallow and Cream Split Up blends in seamlessly with the three
Nectarine No 9 songs they play, effectively covering themselves with
versions of Saint Jack, Walter Tevis and a final This Arsehole's Been
Burned Too Many Times Before.

This is, was and ever shall be how rock and roll should be, and anyone
who witnessed The Sexual Objects tonight should treasure every second
of what might well have been the greatest show on earth. Because,
unless the presumably proud new owner of Marshmallow chooses to release
it into the wider world, they may never hear these awkward little
masterpieces again. Over to you, mystery bidder.

The List, February 2015


ends

 
 

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