Resonantly located in the heart of what was once Tin Pan Alley, the 12 Bar Club is a fearsomely intimate venue. By a strange architectural quirk, the bands that cram on to its tiny stage are largely visible from the waist down: like Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show, only in reverse. Though the London-based quartet Candidate generally eschew the lure of the pelvic waggle, their trousers do speak volumes.
These are the voluminously bagged knees of people who sit down a lot, and the finely honed song-structures that result from those long hours of compositional endeavour are ideally suited to the stripped-down, semi-acoustic mode of performance such a tiny room demands. The drum sound may suggest a drunk repeatedly banging his head against the door of a fridge-freezer, but the melodies come through clear and strong. And tunes there are in plenty.
From the infectious Beta Band stomp of their current single, "Talk about Troubles", to a lilting sea shanty such as "The Wreck of the Breeze", Candidate's burgeoning oeuvre not only conforms to but actively exults in the old-fashioned ideal of hummability, which has re-established itself in British pop's more folkish backwaters since Oasis's "Wonderwall" proved just how far it could take you.
This band is also built around two brothers – the chatty front man, Joel Morris, and his finger-picking sibling Alex – but that is where the similarities to the Gallaghers end. There is nothing abrasive about either Morris, unless you count an exemplary seriousness of purpose that is happy to rub up roughly against the contemporary predilections for tunnel vision and emotional narcissism.
They have confidence, too – the slightly disconcerting brand that is happy to explain in every detail how the live version of the song they are about to play will struggle to live up to the opulence of its recorded antecedent. In fact, cheap and cheerful embellishments such as the penny whistle – "If I panic, it squeals" – or a Christmas-stocking-sized Casio keyboard are the ideal complement to a deceptively sophisticated lyrical palette.
Sometimes, the trappings of back-to-basic-ness fall away and there's a glimpse of something special. The fine second album, Tiger Flies, of which this low-key but engaging show provides a worthy taster, finds them on the very brink of capturing it. Only time will tell if they can push on into unknown territory, but for the moment, operating at a dignified remove from the frenzied quest for next big things that prevails at this time of year, Candidate are quietly building a body of work that is truly worth listening to.Reuse content