To Hull with the consequences

Fonda 500 | The Spitz, London
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The Independent Culture

There's something of Badly Drawn Boy in Fonda 500's Simon Stone. Maybe it's the way he insults his audience ("You southern scum") or abandons a song midway through when he can't quite remember the chords. Then, of course, there's the woolly hat.

There's something of Badly Drawn Boy in Fonda 500's Simon Stone. Maybe it's the way he insults his audience ("You southern scum") or abandons a song midway through when he can't quite remember the chords. Then, of course, there's the woolly hat.

But the difference with this Hull-based quintet is that it's pretty good-natured. For all Stone's brashness, it's hard to be intimidated by a man with Mickey Mouse-style bobbles on his hat and fairy lights dangling from his Casio keyboard. And as for the band's alleged incompetence, you can only imagine that it's a front, an anti-industry statement. Either that, or Fonda 500 are genuinely rubbish.

"This is our last song," Stone remarks drily as they launch into their first. Already wise to his contrary antics, the crowd crack a few jokes themselves, though they are met with a terse: "Ssshh." Fortunately, Stone's crabbiness evaporates when he sings. His voice has the sound of a child who has been shut in his bedroom for too long: plaintive yet full of righteous indignation.

The music is harder to pin down. Fonda 500 are a resourceful band who delight in throwing together the most incongruous sounds (including those of farmyard animals) and to hell with the consequences. The resulting noise treads a fine line between naïveté and sophistication. Take "Betamax": one minute it's a winsome little ditty, all kooky bleeps and whirrings; the next it's spewing dirty great rock riffs, like Sonic Youth at their furious best. Fonda have much in common with Super Furry Animals, too, not least in their penchant for breezy harmonies and silly song-titles.

You get the feeling that they have over-reached themselves in parts, though. During "International Feelings of Love", a particularly complex harmony leaves Stone gasping for air. "I am human, you know. I must breathe," he says, eventually admitting defeat. During the magnificent "Super Chimpanzee", Stone rebukes his hands for disobeying him on the keyboard. Later, the guitarist, implausibly named Nick 500, gets the same treatment. "Hang on - that's too weak," says Stone. "We'll have to start again."

Well, why not? It's bizarre, it's messy... but it's gloriously inventive.

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