THE VOYEURSHarvest Sun @ The Shipping Forecast 18/11/14
Touring on the back of their new album, Rhubarb Rhubarb, released on Heavenly Records, NME darlings THE VOYEURS roll into town on this nippy evening to warm the basement here at the Shipping Forecast. Looking impossibly and annoyingly cool, the London-based five-piece swagger through a set with peaks and troughs a-plenty.
The hype train has long been stationed at Voyeur central but has clearly not accompanied them tonight, and it appears that the band are to perform to a room full of photographers. Given their highly stylised appearance (think The Horrors) this is a prospect I imagine the group will not find at all daunting, and their performance does little to refute this thought.
Sounding a bit like a more studio-polished Television, their songs are packed with disjointed guitar riffs and minimalist percussion. Indeed, front man Charlie Boyer’s lyrics show more than a splattering of Tom Verlaine’s seedy, twilight ramblings. In no place is this more evident than on catchy single Stunners, a song apparently penned about a notorious transvestite strip club in the east end.
Undoubtedly, the songs are entertaining and interesting, having clearly been cultivated by a collective theatrical/art-school mind-set. However, whilst creating an image and aesthetic for a musical project is a well-tested formula, as the set rumbles on it becomes hard not to adopt a jaded attitude to the overly affected expressions and movements on-stage. Yes, Lou Reed wore a turtleneck and yes, it was cool. But he also wrote some of the best albums in popular music. It is becoming clear why the NME has taken such a liking to them.
Music-world-weariness aside, there are some genuinely good songs on display, and second single England Sings Rhubarb Rhubarb is probably the highlight. Essentially a microcosm of what this band are about, it encapsulates the raw musical elements and buried pop sensibilities that have been present throughout the show. With a synthesised string section just below the jagged riffs and popping bass lines, the track has a gloomy, cabaret quality that would not sound out of place in aforementioned transvestite strip club.
While the rest of the members are content to examine their shoes, Boyer makes for an engaging front man. Clearly this is his band but it must be taken into consideration that their name used to be Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs, and was shortened to its current length for their latest release, signalling a shift perhaps in the songwriting dynamic.
All in all it has been a fairly forgettable gig, overshadowed by affectation. Image and branding in music is of course not always a negative, and some of the greatest and most inventive acts have embraced it wholeheartedly and successfully. It is, however, a trope that some fall into a little too deeply and eagerly, drawing attention away from their music when it is supposed to do exactly the opposite. A quick glance at The Voyeurs’ list of upcoming shows suggests that they have a bright immediate future. Tonight’s performance just makes you wonder for what aspect of their appeal the audiences will be applauding.