HOOTON TENNIS CLUB
- Hannah Lou Clark
According to the Echo, RONGRONGO got together over “a romantic leaning for extreme metaphors”, and for once I’m inclined to believe tomorrow’s fish and chip paper. The band, while baby-fresh to the live circuit, let an ominous atmosphere trail after them, the sort that New Romantics used to look forward to before the dry ice ran out. Musically, their interests hook into the somnambulant ache of a synthesizer, dispersing feather-light vocals and doomy bass over a clutch of pop songs that desperately need more chutzpah. Riffs sludge and spike upon miserablist cliff-tops, though if you think anyone’s going to be jumping off anytime soon, think again. RongoRongo are spooky enough without being hair-raising, but there’s enough here to suggest we keep an eye on them for the future – they might discover Coleridge or Keats, and then they’d be truly away.
By comparison, HANNAH LOU CLARK has all the self-imposed cool of a cucumber on stress medication. Her easy, distinctive voice carries more than a hint of Waxahatchee about it; ditto the soft distortion on her guitar, cutting the bullshit out of fare like Kids In Heat, feeding that sweet spot of regret and optimism perfectly attuned to twenty-something anxiety and the bloom of car-crash relationships. She pulls off a classic bar-singer trick – this is emotional stuff you’d listen to in the dark, by yourself, except you’re happy to be in a full room watching someone drag you into their orbit, teasing you with the clash of foreign planets.
Whether you’re a curious gig-goer or already aboard the bandwagon, HOOTON TENNIS CLUB are riding a buzz that’s crying out for a definitive show, and this might just be it. Watching the quartet plug in and attack their new material with barely a pause for breath is like seeing ‘amateur’ wiped clean from a chalkboard; it’s hard to believe they’ve come this far in under a year, with tunes that spring off the walls, recognisably tense with pep and laconicism. Old favourites …And Camilla Drew Fourteen Dots On Her Knee and Much Quicker Than Anyone But Jennifer Could Imagine finally have weight, yet remain fun to bop through, offsetting Ryan Murphy’s dropout-rawk vocal delivery. Minimal fuss between tracks means the set blisters with the energy of a punk show, although Hooton are decidedly not punk and never will be – they’re having too much of a good time for all that nonsense, especially bassist Callum McFadden, who wobbles his head more than can safely be endorsed. Ryan and James Madden’s interplay on the mic is spot on, nailing the sense of mates on an adrenalin cruise, disarmingly slapdash, a centre of ebullience crusted with casual feedback. The Farm’s Carl Hunter gets a shout-out, being instrumental in getting this single launch to where it is – friends acknowledged, then, before the band grind up for the long run, the leap to a (hopefully) national conscious. Judging by the reception Jasper gets at the end of their forty-five minutes, in which barely a second is wasted, we can stake our hopes that the rest of the country will pay attention, and that a cadre of imminent fans await.