Herman Dune, The Old Blue Last, London
Monday 20 October 2008
Nearly a decade since they formed, Herman Dune are still playing venues like the Old Blue Last in Shoreditch, east London – a boozer used to hosting far younger and more questionable talents. It's obviously by choice. Downstairs, in the bar, hopeful fans queue – and downstairs is where they'll stay. Last year, the French group packed out King's College, a space roughly four times the size of the OBL.
Herman Dune revel in their indie-ness. Like their most obvious influence, Jonathan Richman, they're confident enough to play a full venue without ever doing a golden oldie. "Play the hits!" someone shouts. "All of our songs are hits," retort the band, who have never had a hit, as such.
Herman Dune have a fluid membership policy, with frontman David-Ivar and drummer Néman the only constants; tonight, they're a threesome. Stripped down, the songs sound even more intimate. "My Baby's Afraid of Sharks" – from forthcoming album Next Year in Zion – lists a girlfriend's many phobias, over primary-school percussion. The jaunty, romantic "Pure Heart" gets the crowd dancing, while the rollicking, tender "When the Sun Rose Up This Morning" stands out among the new songs.
Like Richman, David-Ivar isn't afraid of sentimentality – his songs straddle the line between sweet and sickly, but always stick to the former. Naively lovely lyrics, in sweetly accented English (he pronounces "green" as "gren"), are tossed aside casually. Naysayers may rail about the death of the underground, but in fact, it's alive and kicking; the proof is in Herman Dune, a band that has survived the death throes of dance music, the anti-folk movement and stadium indie, and have come up smiling, time and again.
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