The Aliens, Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London


A down-to-earth sound that's worth waiting for

It's been a long and, dare I say, winding road that has led The Aliens to the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen door tonight.

When the trippy, electronic folksters Beta Band broke up in late-2004 under a cloud of mental illness, fans were surprised and disappointed. It was anti-climatic, and surely a group so consistently progressive, fun-loving and experimental had more in their canon?

However, following a diagnosis of schizophrenia and acute psychosis, Beta Band brainchild Gordon Anderson was, to all intents and purposes, lost; a rock'n'roll casualty to be filed alongside Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee, as one who cracked under the weight of ability and psychedelic drugs.

So when in 2006 an EP and the following year an album were released by Anderson and the ex-Beta Band members John Maclean and Robin Jones under the guise of The Aliens, the music world sat up and took notice, albeit with a heavy dose of voyeurism.

And walking into the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen tonight, that particular brand of rubber-necking still seems in fashion a whole two years later.

Earlier this year, The Aliens had to cancel a handful of tour dates due to Anderson's increasing ill health and, despite the release of a Kasabian-esque second album Luna just last month, many in the audience are convinced that what they'll witness tonight will be a frazzled, chaotic mess.

Or perhaps that's just what they're hoping for.

After a huge wait, during which rumours of a backstage breakdown catch on like wildfire, the lights eventually dim and the dark, pulsating rhythms of a drum and bass loop fill the air.

Appearing via the decidedly unglamorous side door, The Aliens take the stage with Sgt Pepper jackets and Woodstock-style headbands aplenty. But wait, where is he? Where is Gordon Anderson? Surely the rumours aren't true?

Oh hang on, there he is – swinging from the brittle-looking lighting scaffold, all bed hair and Elvis Presley sunglasses; grubby T-shirt and a pallor that suggests he only leaves the house to pop to the cornershop for some fags. Not that he smokes of course – he lectures us on that particular vice early on in the set.

"Don't smoke," he drawls in his broad Fife accent. "I used to and kept waking up feeling like a person who smoked."

Anderson's off-the-wall banter takes in all sorts of subjects. As well as respiratory sermons, we get improvised stories about a Martian family who visit earth, London's rent prices and a defiantly tongue-in-cheek rant about why, on his stage, during his 15 minutes of fame, he won't just "get on with it" as one audience member requests.

It's all brilliantly off-the-cuff and reminiscent of that other troubled humourist, Tony Hancock. But this is not a one-man show and, even if it were, all the comedy in the world is worthless if the music's not great.

However, great is exactly what it is. "Only Waiting" is an instant classic, with Sixties backing vocals cushioning the barrage of psychedelic organ that swirls overhead, while a bouncy, rolling bass line brings to mind Paul McCartney at his melodic best.

The songs flit from melancholic, murder-ballad verses to a poptastic chorus with ease. It's like the music has been cut and pasted together, not in some contemporary marketing ploy to shift units, but in the artfully manic manner that Pink Floyd employed on their debut album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'.

"Magic Man", while lacking intensity on record, comes alive here as the early-Nineties baggy drum beat is dropped in favour of pounding, Magical Mystery Tour-style Ringo-isms.

Each song feels about 10 minutes long without being dull. They are pacey and frenetic, jaw-dropping and at times anarchic, but never dull.

As the set fizzes out in a eardrum-shattering mix of "The Happy Song"and The Beatles' "Helter Skelter", Gordon Anderson ends the set as he began it, swinging from the rafters like an over-excited child.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas