The story of pop is littered with teenagers who burnt brightly then disappeared or struggled to make the transition to adulthood: Musical Youth, but also Hanson and The Runaways, the proto-punk girl band put together by svengali Kim Fowley in 1976. Fowley co-wrote a few songs with Kiss and might have been impressed by Lil' Chris, the cap-wearing kid from Lowestoft who became the focus of the second series of the Channel 4 show Rockschool.
Like The Runaways, Chris Hardman goes for a punk-pop sound, which proves highly infectious to an audience of young, screaming fans who should be at home on a school night and probably only know The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" because John Peel's favourite single was covered by Busted. Lil' Chris is nearing 16 but looks 12 as he jumps on stage in front of his four-piece group and launches into "Is There Anybody out There? (Kickin' Off)", the song he was forever trying to teach his schoolmates on TV.
He's wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt and a khaki and white cap and is a hyperactive performer, jumping up and down and climbing on the monitors. "Me and My Life" sounds like Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" with the riff from the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" thrown in by guitarist Neil Jones. "I'm not in love with her," yelps Lil' Chris defiantly on the angular "Is She Ready?". As for "Get Delirious", it bears a resemblance to Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up" and Devo's "Girl U Want", which would be mighty reference points if Lil' Chris had actually heard of them.
He wipes sweat from his brow, essays a puerile sneer and I realise he's one of those kids who think punk rock was about the posturing of Sid Vicious rather than the real anger of John Lydon. "The next one is a slow one for all the ladies," announces the would-be teenage rebel, without the irony of Darkness frontman, Justin Hawkins. who went to the same school as Hardman. In fact, all "I've Been Had" does is conjure up the ghosts of early Eighties acts Pat Benatar, Hazel O'Connor and The Motels. Mind you, The Strokes managed to appropriate and update The Cars' sound for the new millennium and Avril Lavigne cleaned up with a pretty similar style.
Thankfully, Lil' Chris keeps his set short and sweet, only playing nine of the 12 songs from his debut album (due out next year on RCA). There is no encore but the ironic scene-makers at the back and the teenage girls at the front seem pleased enough. I put Lil' Chris down for detention and extra homework.Reuse content