Royworld, Westminster Library, London
Thursday 17 April 2008
So many things about Royworld are gloriously silly. There's the name, for a start, which the band apparently shares with a disused bowling alley in Cardiff. Then there's the silly question posed by the first line of their single "Man in the Machine", which goes: "Dave... is there something wrong?"
Dave, sadly, is not identified, but this line and the rest are delivered in singer Rod Futrille's mildly silly (yet entirely wonderful) Dave Bowie croon. Perhaps silliest of all are the I'm-a-bit-constipated faces made by Gerry Morgan, the one-man rhythm section, as he expertly bashes the box drum he's sitting on.
The band have been doing an acoustic tour of British libraries with the admirable Get It Loud In Libraries scheme. For this, the final show, they have a string quartet to bolster their crisp, Eighties sound.
It's tempting to say they sound like Talking Heads covering Fleetwood Mac, but that does their modernity a disservice, so... The Futureheads covering Keane? They have the jerky cross-rhythms and yelped harmonies of the former, and the smashing melodic hooks of the latter. It's a winning combination.
The bouncing singles "Elasticity" and "Man in the Machine" are highlights, "Man in the Machine" using the strings to particular effect for its Daft Punk-plundered riff. "Tinman" begins with Keane-esque piano chord-bashing and mutates into a psychedelic round.
"Same Sun", "Wish Ourselves Away" and the soaring "Brakes" could easily be singles, but that title goes to "Dust", which is already on heavy rotation in radio stations across the land.
The only sour note is struck by the pedestrian strum of "Brother", but at least it showcases Futrille's powerful falsetto. Speaking of brothers, the band's creative genesis is eccentric; Futrille writes the songs with his sibling Crispin, who's not a performing member of the band.
The superficials need work. Futrille is unfailingly polite, even to the sound man ("I'm terribly sorry to keep pestering you, Larry, but could you turn Timmy's piano monitor up just a little?" – that sort of thing). But his banter is a tad weak.
As to image, the foursome look like they're playing in different bands: Futrille is a stretchier Sean from East-Enders, Morgan a slimmer Jack Black from School of Rock, pianist Timmy Miles a posher (if you can believe it) James Blunt, and hirsute guitarist Robbie Parkin a less-tanned Jesus. But if that's the only argument you can muster against such fantastically catchy tunes, it's an argument you're bound to lose.
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