Review: Wave Machines + Ark People @ Madame Jojo’s, Feb18th 09.

Wave Machines – Keep The Lights On

Ark People – All Eyes On Anthony

Tonight I’m at the ‘Bloody Awful Poetry’ night in Soho. It’s my first visit to Madame Jojo’s and I’m impressed by the layout of sunken dancefloor and raised stage so the band are held up for all to see, nowhere to hide. The ambience of the place is relaxed, dimly lit with tables scattered along the edges and a red sheet laced with fairy lights as the sole backdrop for the bands on show.

Them:Youth are first up this evening and I’m going to skim quickly across them as they don’t fit their surroundings or the bill this evening. Their brand of 90’s teen prom rock epics sound dated at best, the only saving grace coming from some occasionally nice drum work that gives the songs a dance edge.

Ark People @ Madame jojo's, Feb 18th 09 by

Ark People
For Fans of: Joy Division, Arcade Fire, White Lies, Nick Cave.

London’s Ark People are next and immediately fit better into their surroundings. They’re a six-piece comprising of vocals/double bass/keys, two guitars/backing vocals, keys/backing vocals, bass and (excellent) drums. Two of the main characters are the brothers Haughton, frontman Miles and guitarist Marcus are both tall, slender, afro wearing figures. While Marcus is definitely the cooler looking of the two with his red guitar and skinniest of jeans, it’s Miles who grabs your attention straight off with his double bass raised to his substantial height and that deep rich growl that comes out when he opens his mouth. I’m impressed by his formidable voice (think Editors,White Lies) but I definitely prefer it when it’s in full flight rather than during the more restrained parts of songs.

Ark People’s sound is a lush orchestral rock akin to Arcade Fire (who seem to still be setting the benchmark for a lot of bands in this field at the moment) and their lyrics evoke similarly powerful imagery to them also. An example of this is ‘All eyes on Anthony’ a definite highlight with it’s soaring guitar lines and its tale of heroes, heartbeats and skies. On tracks like ‘When The Lights Go Out’, a deserved hit in the waiting, their formula works to perfection. Ark People welcome a new guitarist this evening and it’s an accomplished performance all round for the band but I get the feeling there is more to come.

Wave Machines @ Madame Jojo's, Feb 18th 09 by

Wave Machines
For fans of: Beck, Beta Band, Flaming Lips, Friendly Fires, The Rapture. Grandaddy.

Wave Machines of Liverpool justly headline the night and cap it off in fine fashion. These guys deserve to be huge and are heading the right way having amassed a decent following after releasing just a couple of 7inch singles and an excellently hand packaged EP available from their MySpace. Top points for them on effort and world saving potential for their homemade approach to cd making! Handcraft aside the group’s live reputation has been growing too, partly due to their regular ‘Wave If You’re Really There’ night that they put on at St Bride’s church with a local art collective called Mercy.

Wave Machines’ music is an eclectic mix of styles, part psychedelic disco jams, part Flaming Lips child like ditties part Beck’s white boy hip-hop swagger part Beta Band electro. That’s a lot of parts but for all the weirdness it’s unashamedly danceable and ultimately accessible. The four piece of guitar, guitar/keys, bass/synth and drums all contribute vocals and all don custom masks displaying ghostly versions of their own face. A bit of a gimmick perhaps but they definitely add to the tripped out effect of many of their songs. These boys know how to throw down a groove or two!  Single ‘The Greatest Escape Ever Made’ gives us a clue of this but it’s nothing compared to what is to come in the Michael Jackson/Prince hybrid of new number ‘Keep the Lights On’. Then there’s the all out space rock/disco jam that I think is called ‘Water Dries On My Back’, another new track and one of the live highlights of my year so far as indeed is the band’s whole performance this evening. Closing number ‘Punk Spirit’ demonstrates the bands ability to pull out a softer indie number as well and is just one example of the lyrical strength and sense of humour on offer with lines like ‘and later when you left the room I whispered – you can fucking die’. Exactly and lots more of it please!

The band are currently mixing their debut long player which I for one can’t wait to get my mitts on. In the meantime you have to see these guys live, you will not be disappointed. They play a support slot as part of a great bill next week and are back for Word Music Festival in March. Look out for posts on both of those shows in the coming hours and days.

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