Pop: Stetson and sons

Scott 4 / Super J Lounge Flapper and Firkin, Birmingham
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Scott 4 / Super J Lounge

Flapper and Firkin, Birmingham

We've almost reached the end of Super J Lounge's set, when a chap strolls in with an acute sense of purpose. He heads straight for the T-shirt display, baulks at the prices, and disappears back out of the door. It either says something about him as a person, or it speaks volumes about Super J Lounge. There is nothing inherently defective about this ordinary indie guitar unit, but neither is there anything distinctive or unique to set them apart. The singer has a Sylvian-esque croon, and at times they're reminiscent of minimalist angst merchants Low; but the guitars are so loud that you barely get to hear anything else. For a tiny moment they even sound like The Mission, and that is not a foible to boast about.

There is a huge leopard skin print draped over the entire length of the backdrop, adorned with small light bulbs so that it resembles the night of a million stars. Once the lights have been dimmed, Scott Blixen appears, wearing his trademark stetson; as he breaks into "East Winter", his scrawny voice takes on a gruff timbre (a la Joe Cocker and Tom Waits). Hollow reverb gives it style, as Blixen sings in mutated country tones. The vocal transforms him into Johnny Cash, and the only thing missing is a bottle of bourbon and rolling tumbleweed. The realism and lament in Blixen's gravel-inflected voice bring to mind early Springsteen (especially on "Lucky Strike"), although I'm not sure whether he'd appreciate the comparison; the acute pitch of his expressive vocal becomes introspective and mournful, hitting rich, deep notes at the lower end of the scale. Curiously, he rolls his eyeballs at the end of each line of enunciation, then takes the opportunity to hammer out slabs of Moog-ridden Electronica during the instrumental parts of the songs. Meanwhile, another chap's had enough - as he exits he shows his friend the thumbs-down. Philistines-a-go-go...

Blixen is unperturbed, and barks out a song with the frayed grandeur of a man who smokes 40 Marlboro a day. Accompanied by dark, textural beats and a relentless acoustic guitar riff, he launches into a 20-minute improvisation. Hunched over the Moog like a protective human cocoon, his Stetson bobs up and down to the groove, in line with everyone else in the room. Flailing guitar melts into a mass of drums and a nagging bass line, and Blixen is enjoying himself. Will this piece ever end? You certainly hope not. One by one, the band leaves the stage to the sound of furiously beating pulses. And still Blixen has his head bowed over the keyboards, squeezing every last nuance of distortion out of them. Finally, it ends. As it fades out, the magnificence lingers. You can see it glittering in the stars.

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