at Spaceland, January 6
Outside Spaceland late Saturday night, a car screeched to a stop at the curb and a voice yelled out, “This is it!” Four young lads jumped out and did a swervy sort of dance to the sidewalk, followed by an older guy with a 12-pack of Corona under his arm. Kids, I thought. Was I surprised 30 minutes later when the same four lads came out onstage as headliners the View? Yes and no.
The first thing you hear about the View is their precociousness: They average 18, or did last year at any rate when their first two singles — “Wasted Little DJs” and “Superstar Tradesman” — burst them onto the U.K. scene. The next thing you hear is, well, their precociousness, displayed all over their surprisingly mature first album, Hats Off to the Buskers. Half of its 14 tunes are legitimate would-be singles — including the latest, “Same Jeans.” (Listen for it on Indie 103.1, whose music director, Mark “Mr. Shovel” Sovel, was in the audience along with such Silver Lake royalty as Daniel Lanois and Project Runway’s Jeffrey Sebelia.)
Led by the scraggle-haired singer/guitarist Kyle Falconer, who looks about 15 in his cords and sneakers, and bassist Kieren Webster, with Pete Reilly on guitar and the strangely George Harrison–looking Steve Morrison on drums, the View began life as a cover band in the pubs of Dundee, Scotland. They must have covered some good bands: the Jam, say, and the Buzzcocks, Squeeze, XTC, Sex Pistols — even, perhaps, Herman’s Hermits. Throw in, for good measure, the Clash and a certain four-piecer from Liverpool, of whom the View remind not so much in their sound as in their vibe. The View mix tempos and styles, from punk to ska to acoustic-with-harmonica, and what’s great about these guys is their ability, their willingness, to go soft — that is, the early Jam/Paul Weller sort of soft.
Hats Off to the Buskers, which will be released January 22 in the U.K. (March 13 here), is a songfest of loveliness and gritty fun. It’s produced by Owen Morris, whose recording technique made Oasis’ debut, Definitely Maybe, the loudest album of its moment. But a different, poppier strategy seems at play here, with the instruments reined in behind the vocals: In short, Hats Off isn’t loud enough. Even the Billy Zoom–esque, basso-twang riffs in the head-bobber “Wasted Little DJs” sound like they were played in the studio next door.
That’s unfortunate, but a good live performance can cure all that ails, of course, and the opening chords, big beats and teenage wail of “Comin’ Down” were more than restorative. Never mind the Britpop hype machine, these are four working-class mates whose bar-band background serves them well: There’s no pretense or guile, only the pleasure of playing. And singing. Falconer and Webster are the most natural (and charming) pair of front men I’ve seen in a long time — maybe ever at their age. They’ve got plenty of room to grow, to be sure, but that’s part of the View’s pleasure — ours and theirs. “You’d be surprised at what you can achieve in a year,” Falconer sings in “Same Jeans,” a reference to the band’s rise from last year’s pub fare to this week’s cover of the NME. What’ll he think — and sing — by the time he can drink legally in California?
To see a YouTube clip from this show, check out the online version of this review at laweekly.com.