Mechanical Bride, The Slaughtered Lamb, London
Thursday 04 September 2008
Among this season's musical micro-trends is the kooky young female singer-songwriter: a scene in search of the next Bat for Lashes. Lykke Li and Florence and the Machine are fine examples, and I recently saw The Mummers, aka Raissa Khan-Panni and friends, play a brief but promising showcase for their upcoming mini-album, Tale to Tell (Part One), presenting a repertoire that owes much to Björk and, hmmm... Judy Garland?
Brighton's Mechanical Bride, meanwhile, are 22-year-old Lauren Doss and friends, who this evening are topping the bill at the Electroacoustic Club, a regular digest of up-and-coming young things held in the basement of The Slaughtered Lamb pub in Farringdon.
Doss and her five-strong band squeeze into the corner of the darkened room with their instruments – a piano, a horn, a tuba, an acoustic guitar, an accordion, a mandolin, bongos and a glockenspiel mounted on an ironing board – but I can't help thinking it might have made a better one-woman show. All this messing about swapping equipment between songs suggests a lack of confidence in the tunes themselves.
Which is a shame, since some of those songs are lovely, particularly the ethereal, piano-led laments "The Final" and "Poor Boy", which both appear on the band's new EP, Part II. "You Stole My Heart", an oompah-oompah march, sounds like Stina Nordenstam fronting Beirut.
Much as Beirut and Arcade Fire are fantastic bands, the blame for the excessive use of eccentric folk instruments by new bands nowadays can be placed firmly at their doors. All these accordions and xylophones and ukuleles – it's just a bit twee, isn't it? Cluttering up the melodies with de rigueur orchestration is all very well, but in this intimate setting it might be best to strip everything back to basics.
Thanks in part to the tiny venue, the whole set sounds a tad ramshackle, like some up-market band of buskers. Some of the instruments are too loud, and some of them sound slightly out of tune, but then there's no denying the allure of Doss's delicate, otherworldly vocal.
After she finishes her final song, the spooky "See Worlds", alone with the glockenspiel, Doss ducks behind the ironing board, apparently too self-conscious to soak up her applause. There's still an overwhelming sense that we're watching half-formed material rather than the finished article, but she should have a little more faith in her fans' taste. They like her for a reason.
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