Goldie Lookin' Chain, Bierkeller, Bristol Vincent Gallo, Royal Festival Hall, London The Departure, 333 Club, London

Faux peasants, a faux fascist and five to watch out for...
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The website www.chavscum.co.uk has been receiving a lot of media attention lately. Describing itself as "a humorous guide to Britain's burgeoning peasant underclass", the site is a satirical shrine to "chavs" (etymology uncertain: some say it comes from Chatham, where the phenomenon was first spotted, others claim it has Romany origins), the fake Burberry-hatted, Hackett-shirted, Nike-shod, McDonald's-munching boy racers taking over our town centres, and their girlfriends, real-life Vicki Pollards from Little Britain. Chavscum's most extreme detractors have branded it "fascist" for its alleged loathing of the working class. Others, like me, would argue that while there is always an excuse for being poor, there is never an excuse for being a peasant, and therefore chavs are fair game.

The website www.chavscum.co.uk has been receiving a lot of media attention lately. Describing itself as "a humorous guide to Britain's burgeoning peasant underclass", the site is a satirical shrine to "chavs" (etymology uncertain: some say it comes from Chatham, where the phenomenon was first spotted, others claim it has Romany origins), the fake Burberry-hatted, Hackett-shirted, Nike-shod, McDonald's-munching boy racers taking over our town centres, and their girlfriends, real-life Vicki Pollards from Little Britain. Chavscum's most extreme detractors have branded it "fascist" for its alleged loathing of the working class. Others, like me, would argue that while there is always an excuse for being poor, there is never an excuse for being a peasant, and therefore chavs are fair game.

The most controversial inclusion on the site's Celebrity Chavs section (Jade Goody, Wayne Rooney, Daniella Westbrook) is Mike Skinner of The Streets, whose perceptive, poignant and witty depictions of chav culture arguably disqualify him from true chavdom on grounds of excessive intellect.

As Chav Fever approaches its peak, into the fray come Goldie Lookin' Chain, a posse of nine Mike Skinners - at least, I think there are nine, but they don't keep still long enough to be easily counted - from Newport, Gwent.

GLC first made their name by advertising themselves as "Charlotte Church's new band" when they played Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach, which resulted in a total lockout, with tabloid hacks and paparazzi climbing the drainpipes in a vain attempt to gain entry. (They also convinced Heat magazine that one of them was Charlotte's new boyfriend, and that they were recording a single with La Church, entitled "Stick It In Cider"). Clearly, these Gwent boys, who have names like Dwain Xain Zedong, Baby Jesus and Adam Hussain, are prankster rappers par excellence.

The Goldie Lookin' Chain shtick is Cypress Hill relocated to the banks of the Usk, or Blazin' Squad after five years on the dole scrapheap. The first wave of GLC hype claimed they were the genuine article - feckless council estate trash - but the Kevin and Perry-style stage outfits in which they hyperactively bound around the Bierkeller (sideways baseball caps, cheap car-booter knock-offs of designer sportswear) suggest they're laughing at the chavs, not with them. Either way, the act has won them prestigious support slots with The Darkness (with whom they have recently become Must Destroy/east west labelmates) and fellow Welsh stoners Super Furry Animals.

Debut album The Manifesto, of which tonight's show is basically a karaoke rendition (there are no live instruments, nor even a DJ), is crammed with joyously amateurish samples of the Dallas theme and Colonel Abrams' "Trapped", South Wales slang like "you knows it" (a GLC catchphrase), countless instances of the word "here" pronounced "yurr" (enough to make this writer homesick), and tasteless references to Rod Hull falling off the roof and Jeffrey Archer's imprisonment. It is, in the correct regional vernacular, smaaart, tidy and lush.

Tonight, they change the lyrics of "You've Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two" from Oliver!, Hall and Oates's "Maneater" and Sting's "Englishman In New York" to turn them into comic tales of weed-dealing lowlife; and "Self Suicide" is a song about the lucrative industry in dead rock stars. They end by persuading a club crammed with grinning Bristolians to bounce along to an Eric Clapton sample and chant the soon-to-be-immortal mantra "your mother's got a penis!" Are they 4 Real, or just taking the Mike? Will they outlast the hype, or will the novelty wear thin? And does it matter either way, when they're so much fun right now? As Vicki Pollard herself would bewilderingly put it, no but yeah but no but...

Speaking of bouncing Bristols, the cult actor-director Vincent Gallo will forever be owed a debt of gratitude by mankind. In Buffalo '66, his excellent 1998 kidnap-love story, he persuaded Christina Ricci to dye her hair blonde, wear a low-cut turquoise dress and (here's the genius part) tap-dance for the camera.

The notoriously right wing renaissance man is a Republican Party cardholder whose legendary rants on his official website leave no minority un-offended. The jury's out on whether all this is merely a carefully maintained stance, designed to accord him a certain rebel chic among the soft-left Hollywood establishment. However, there have been signs that his macho persona is unravelling. When his last film, Brown Bunny, was ridiculed at Cannes, Gallo broke down at a press conference and apologised.

Which perhaps illustrates the side of Gallo's character from which his gentle and often devastatingly beautiful music emanates. Skulking onstage in an ill-fitting retro jacket and trouser combo in front of a house full of hipsters (oh look, there's Karen O, ah, and there's Kim Gordon), Gallo sits on a stool and, with the help of Jim O'Rourke (guitar/bass) and Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley (drums), performs his second album, When.

"Sorry", he says after a slight cock-up, "I'm used to playing alone." Indeed, the presence of other musicians is eyebrow-raising: Gallo is a classic control freak. He later surprises everyone by assembling a de facto supergroup, by emotionally blackmailing his friend (and, rumour has it, former lover) PJ Harvey and Chili Pepper John Frusciante into joining him. "I rehearsed this song with them at Camber Sands, but they were more interested in themselves and going to a party, so I'll play it myself... unless PJ and John want to join me?" The song is "Moon River", set in slightly too high a key for Polly (maybe a rehearsal would have helped), although Frusciante gives it his best John Williams regardless.

Gallo's own lyrics are fragmentary, disjointed snatches of lovelorn wistfulness: "it would be so nice... let's find a happy place... why do I make things so sad?" His unhurried, Nick Drake-esque melodies, such as the opener (dedicated to the unfortunately-named hotel heiress and internet porn starlet Paris Hilton), insinuate their way into your brain for days afterwards.

After another slip-up, he apologises, before joking, "You can always console yourself by paying £70 for a T-shirt. (The self-made, limited edition fare at the merchandise stall, created in the style of Parisian stencil graffiti and lurid Lourdes tat, does indeed retail for that outrageous price.) It's a lot of money to pay for a T-shirt, and this is a long way to come for a lullaby. It's dark. It's warm. The seats are comfy. The sounds are soporific. Once or twice, I confess, I start nodding off. When the house lights wake me, I wonder: how can such an uncouth soul create music this... couth?

Finally, a quick heads-up about something new. Very new. The Departure are five fresh-faced young men from Northampton (birthplace of the mighty Bauhaus). The gig I've just seen at the 333 Club in London's Fashionable Hoxton is their first in the capital, and only their seventh ever. This is, unless I am mistaken, their first ever review.

It's a remarkably assured performance, tightly drilled, with great tunes and killer dynamics. The keywords are: Faint, Duran, Furs (Psychedelic), Franz (Ferdinand), Joy Division and A Flock Of Seagulls. And they look the part: asymmetric Eighties haircuts, cravats and jerky dance moves, with one very talented guitarist and one very pretty one. Which never does any harm. There are a number of music-biz movers and shakers in the house tonight, which suggests that I'm not sticking my neck out too far here.

Cut out this page and come back to it in a year's time. If The Departure aren't famous by then, I'll eat it.

s.price@independent.co.uk

Goldie Lookin' Chain: Manchester Uni (0161 275 2930), Tue; Zodiac, Oxford (01865 420042), Wed; Mean Fiddler, London WC2 (020 7434 0403), Thur; Forum, Tunbridge Wells (01892 545792), Fri; Academy, Birmingham (0870 771 2000), Sat; tour continues. The Departure: Vine, Leeds (0113 203 1821), Wed

Comments