Hamfatter, Proud Gallery, Camden, London
Monday 04 August 2008
During the day, the Proud Gallery in Camden is exhibiting a series of photographs of Sid Vicious, whose Sex Pistols did a remarkably effective job of hiding the commercial forces behind their music. Hamfatter, playing the same venue by night, will forever be known as the band backed (to the tune of £75,000) by businessman Peter Jones on BBC2's Dragons' Den. The relationship between their art and commerce has been laid bare from the beginning.
The first thing Jones ought to have done with his financial leverage was force the band to change their name, which makes them sound, at best, like death metal rockers. Does anyone really want to be thinking about pork production while listening to pop music?
The second thing he ought to have done was hire a decent stylist. Hamfatter still look like a pub band, with off-trend jeans, baggy shirts and at least one encroaching bald spot. You might get away with that sort of non-look back home in Cambridge, but this is Camden, fellas. When he put together the Pistols, Malcolm McLaren had the good sense to pick their outfits, and his dresser was Vivienne Westwood.
You have to wonder what's actually in Jones's record collection, so unremarkable is his first signing. Sure, they have a couple of radio-friendly tunes, in the vein of Orson or Scouting for Girls, but this is an entrepreneur who makes it clear that he's interested in little more than the bottom line. The sum of £75,000 might not be much for a man worth in the region of £100m, but I'm not sure I can see him making it back. Although if there's one thing Jones's involvement has ensured it's that Hamfatter's first London gig since their Dragons' Den appearance is attended by almost as many film crews as audience members.
Their latest single, "The Girl I Love", holds up best in a brief set. Like "Sziget", the song that convinced Jones to invest in them, it's a slice of summery indie pop that doesn't offend. But the rest of the show is deeply ordinary. There's a slow one, the odd suspect stab of ska (courtesy of a three-man brass section), and a drum solo given rather more attention than it deserves due to the drummer having written off his car just that morning. It would be nice to think that the music industry is driven by more than simply hard currency. Hamfatter are about to put that theory to the test.
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