Sam Sparro, Camden Crawl, London<br/>Ipso factor, Camden Crawl, London - Reviews - Music - The Independent

Sam Sparro, Camden Crawl, London
Ipso factor, Camden Crawl, London

Existential Christian angst. This could be the Next Big Thing: The Camden Crawl, NW1's annual rock bazaar, seems to throw up bands on the cusp ... where fame beckons but it's pub gigs for now




There's always one. Every year at the Camden Crawl – the annual multi-band, multi-venue happening at which thousands of young folks charge up and down NW1's main thoroughfares in an attempt to catch as many acts as possible – there's somebody who's on the cusp. Somebody who, through a quirk of the time-lapse between being booked and actually performing, finds themselves playing a tiny boozer (as opposed to, say, the Electric Ballroom or Koko) when they're at the very apex of the breaking wave of stardom. Last year it was Calvin Harris who had the entire congregation of Crawl-goers trying to get into tranny cabaret pub The Black Cap. This year, playing the Earl of Camden (a nondescript pub), it's Sam Sparro who has them queuing around the block.

Sam Sparro is that classic template for an interesting pop star: the misfit who found his way into the mainstream. Too Australian for America, too American for Australia, and too openly gay for both, his peripatetic upbringing was, by all accounts, a solitary one. Suddenly, the United Kingdom has taken him to its heart, and his very-nearly-chart-topping single "Black and Gold" has correctly been hailed as this year's "Hey Ya!" or "Crazy", ie, a unifying soul-pop singalong that the whole world loves.

'Tis pity he's a Christian. It's always disappointing when you find that an artist you admire is an evolution-denier (although, if you're going to enforce it strictly, you'd have to set fire to the lion's share of your soul collection). But yes, he's one of them, and it was during a spell as a choirboy that funk diva Chaka Khan, who attended the same church, exclaimed, "Damn, that white boy can sing!"

Actually, it isn't a pity at all. Sparro's saving grace is that he's a doubter, and doubt is always more interesting than certainty. Far from being a strident saints-go-marching-in anthem, "Black and Gold" is the sound of confusion (unsurprising, given that Leviticus 20 would have him put to death merely for being what he is). This is what lends the song its delicious flavour of existential torment. It's a song that, in pondering the nature of existence ("Now I'm filled to the top with fear that it's all just a bunch of matter..."), seems to acknowledge Plath ("I talk to God, but the sky is empty"), if not quite Nietzsche ("God is dead"). Having been brought up to believe in an omniscient, omnipotent creator, the adult Sam (he's 23 now) confronts the possibility that there isn't one: the "you" in "If you're not really here/Then I don't wanna be, either...", one surmises, is the deity himself.

Not that the hordes are here to tackle theology. They're here to dance, and Sparro obliges. Walking through the crowd shrouded in a pale grey hoodie like a boxing champ in waiting and sporting the sort of specs with white plastic frames that Trevor Horn used to wear in The Buggles, it isn't long before the former is dark with sweat and the latter are discarded.

Sparro proves he's not a one-hit wonder ("Sick" recalls the shoulder-pad soul of Vandross and O'Neal, "21st Century Life" the unapologetic uncoolness of Kool & The Gang, "Cottonmouth" the louche gyrations of Imagination) and more than a one-trick pony (he can do a mean falsetto, and his skinny white frame is home to a phat voice, like gargling a chocolate milkshake). It feels like the whole of Camden is here, teetering on every available ledge to get a view (I can only see his reflection by positioning myself at an angle to a handily placed mirror). Everyone's wearing their affirmative funk face. When the bouncers allow one-out, one-in, there's literally a conga line through the door.

What Sparro may lack in energy he vampirically sucks from his audience. By the time he's knockin' em cold with "Black and Gold", he's given up contemplating the divine, and goes crawlabout.

Sparro is preceded by Ipso Facto, a decidedly icier prospect. Ipso Facto have been hailed, or dismissed (depending on your viewpoint), as a "female Horrors", largely for social reasons (they're old friends from Southend), and perhaps for their shared aesthetic (vintage and monochrome), but sonically they have little in common with the garage-goth abandon of their male counterparts.

Rosalie Cunningham, Cherish Kaya, Victoria Smith and Samantha Valentine wear immaculate 1960s dresses, elegant geometric bobs, and even their eyebrows are sculpted to precision. Their music echoes this scrupulous attention to detail. These aren't songs so much as exercises, or – let's be really pretentious about this – études.

This is the art of disciplined repression. Ipso Facto's minimal baroque is typified by "Smoke and Mirrors", a waltz around an empty ballroom haunted by Rosalie's voice (which is itself stalked by the ghosts of Siouxsie Sioux and Julie Driscoll). Ipso Facto will never be massive. But they will be a lot of people's favourite un-massive band.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week