Pop: Like Eddie Izzard in a strop
Friday 02 October 1998
TIN STAR, Baby Bird's support act, left us all a little present on our seats: a promo tape. I was grateful for this gift on two counts. One: I had missed their support spot. Two: I can now confirm that the spirit of INXS, replete with drum and bass trimmings, will live on into the third millennium.
If you have made a name for yourself by demanding silence from your audience, you had better be prepared for the evening when you get it.
A few years ago, Stephen Jones, the prime mover behind Baby Bird, notoriously suggested Madame Tussaud's as a more suitable venue for a couple of chatty EFL students who had interrupted a London gig. Tuesday night's audience had taken note. It was obviously appreciative but deferential to a fault.
If, as mitigation, you bore in mind the pop myth that surrounds Baby Bird (no creation of the group's, it should be added), you may have put up with Jones's irascibility. A generous man might even say his eccentric stage presence - imagine Eddie Izzard in a strop - is a wheeze, too.
But notwithstanding the disappointing venue, the gig fell into a depressing rhythm: song, applause, snipe from Jones about lack of atmosphere, attempt by audience members to create atmosphere, snipe from Jones about attempt by audience members to create atmosphere.
It is to everyone's credit that neither Jones, nor the rest of Baby Bird, nor the audience quite lost their tempers. For this we can probably thank the songs, whose quality, despite the minor critical backlash that has been directed at Baby Bird, remains undiminished.
By and large mid-tempo, with simple guitar parts and anchored by unfussy synthesizers, they are very effective vehicles for Jones's unabashed vocals, and even better as faux-naif settings for his lyrics' macabre dramatising. Nine - or is it 10? - albums on, Jones's bellow stills sounds like a flat Neil Diamond, its bathetic quality suiting his pessimistic disposition perfectly.
In fact, it is Jones's epigrammatic facility which serves him best. "I'm too handsome to be homeless," he sang at one point with his customary bile, a tone he also brought to the refrain in "All Men Are Evil": "Then the sun comes up/And I can't get a tan /Oh yeh, I'm happy now''. Jones's reflections on love in "You Bring The Sunshine" are, if anything, more disturbing, confirming him and Jarvis Cocker as pop's two scariest snogs.
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