CAY ELECTRIC BALLROOM, LONDON
CUBA IMPROV THEATRE, LONDON
Stroke could mean a variety of things: a flash of fortune, the motion of a racket hitting a ball or perhaps the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. But you knew what Stroke had in mind from the chorus of girlie whoops that greeted their arrival. The lost little-boy looks of the guitarist elicited cooing noises from the audience as if they had been presented with a new-born kitten, while the carefully dishevelled appearance and pin-up poses of singer Jason Kelly had them foaming at the mouth.
Kelly's confidence was backed by a scorching performance. He switched on a convincingly glazed expression for the pensive numbers and strutted like a seasoned rock god for the more boisterous ones. Stroke's concoction of rock and muted dance grooves displayed anthemic qualities that would have been more at home in a stadium than the diminutive dimensions of the Barfly. Their songs largely stuck to a winning formula of slow-burning introductions comprising shimmering keyboards and pared-down guitars, before building into a mighty barrage of grinding basslines. As it turned out, their unwavering self-belief was entirely justified.
If Courtney Love ever finds herself out of a job it will be because of Cay's vocalist, Anet Mook. Wearing a sneer and a t-shirt bearing the inscription `I Suk Rok", Mook was the consummate indie icon. Her voice blended Love's throaty tones with the visceral yowl of Babes In Toyland's Kat Bjelland, and she was backed by guitars that echoed the moody ruminations of Sonic Youth. But Cay's objective was not simply to thrust angst-ridden attitude in our faces. Compelling melodies were discernible under Mook's 30-a- day vocals while sweeping instrumental passages unveiled a refreshing capacity for reflection.
Cuba were the Happy Mondays tailored for the middle classes. After an navel-gazey instrumental prelude, they steamed into a baggy number that seemed disturbingly familiar. With the anticipation surrounding the revival of baggy's true patrons next month, Cuba's pale imitation has arrived at a particularly inopportune time.
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