First Night: Chester French, Carling Academy, Birmingham
Peaches' beau jumps on retro-pop bandwagon
Wednesday 20 August 2008
When Peaches Geldof married the guitarist of an unknown indie rock band last week in Las Vegas after the pair had dated for a month, most passed it off as a publicity stunt. Until then, had any of us heard of a band called Chester French? This audience hadn't – some of them broke into a chant of "who are ya?" before the man of the moment, Max Drummey, took to the stage.
If the wedding was a plan to launch the career of his Boston duo in time for a UK tour and upcoming debut album, Love The Future, the pair could risk emulating the fleeting success of the mediocre indie band Five O'Clock Heroes to whom the model Agyness Deyn brought shortlived fame.
This band are two Harvard graduates, both aged 23, who named their group after a US architect, Daniel Chester French, who designed the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. They are here supporting the hip-hop band N*E*R*D, whose leader, Pharrell Williams, signed them to his Star Trak label. Williams says he thinks Chester French are "geniuses" ("to me, they sound like Brian Wilson singing over Motown tracks"). And the duo dutifully butter up their label's boss, urging the crowd to make the Star Trak sign with their hands.
They launch into The Jimmy Choos, one of the tracks that is most likely to get radio play for its catchy melody. She Loves Everybody is also a contender, moving swiftly on a slinky bass line.
Peaches is not mentioned during their mercifully short set, nor is a ring visible on Drummey's left hand – although he has said that a ring gets in the way of his guitar-playing. Instead, Drummey, hiding behind a mop of blond hair, leaves the banter to DA Wallach. At one point, DA addresses the crowd: "I hope you guys didn't think you were coming to a concert. This is a party night!" At others, he wields a tambourine to accompany his earnest Sixties-style vocals.
Wallach says that Bebe Buell is about LA girls. But the lyrics "this ain't groupie love, cos you mean so much to me" can't help but take on the suggestion that they are being used to defend Peaches and Drummey's relationship.
But the pair try to combine too many musical styles in this single song. Here Motown, funk-rock such as N*E*R*D's, synth-pop, and rock make a hodge-podge. Worse still are the obvious key changes and lyrics. The elementary poetry of the last song, Remember, has: "the night was so exciting/her smile was so inviting".
The most impressive part of the set is the medley in which Drummey and his band, called the Perverts, move from Forgot About Dre by Dr Dre, to the R&B singer Amerie, to Let's Dance by David Bowie, to Daft Punk's Robot Rock. Drummey replicates the sound of each on his guitar, or keyboards, while adding an occasional vocal sound.
It seems too easy to find fault with a band who have not had to build a well-earned fanbase over time like most others. But Chester French don't have the tunes or innovation to rank alongside comparable Ivy League acts such as MGMT or Vampire Weekend.
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