I am Kloot, Koko, London

Simon O'Hagan
Thursday 24 April 2008 00:00
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Endearing: Johnny Bramwell, frontmanand spirit of I Am Kloot © Rex
Endearing: Johnny Bramwell, frontmanand spirit of I Am Kloot © Rex

Tickets were available on the night for I Am Kloot's tour-opener in Camden – which just goes to show that there's no justice in this world. Quite why a band this good should go so under-appreciated is a bit of a mystery, but then again the industry likes categories, and I Am Kloot don't fall neatly into any of them.

Unashamedly romantic, the Mancunian three-piece (augmented to five on stage) hint at The Smiths, but a more relevant, contemporary comparison might be with the musical pageantry peddled by The Decemberists, in which folk and prog-rock battle for supremacy. I Am Kloot, formed 10 years ago, offer a little more grit than the Portland outfit, and in their endearing frontman and presiding spirit Johnny Bramwell they boast a songwriter of seemingly effortless grace.

While the rest of the band – bassist, drummer, and two keyboard players – occupied themselves self-effacingly, the louche, tousle-haired figure of Bramwell held the stage with a series of passionately delivered songs, all underpinned by musical craftsmanship of the highest order.

There was a lovely spaciousness to the sound, and in Bramwell's voice – nasal, echoey, evocative of damp streets and dark skies – I Am Kloot boast an instrument that sends shivers down the spine. The honesty of his lyricism puts one in mind of something once said of Alan Bennett – that he is unafraid of sentiment and therefore quite unsentimental.

But while there were great individual moments, the evening lacked a certain momentum, proceedings somewhat undercut by Bramwell's drollery.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome on stage our great friend, the glitter-ball." Cue glitter-ball. "In what has already become a great tradition of tonight, we must now play a new song." When most bands tell you they are about to perform a new song, an inward groan is discernible on the part of the audience. But much as old favourites like "From Your Favourite Sky" and "No Fear of Falling" were warmly greeted, there was no reason to brace oneself against the unknown, with the choices from the band's latest album – I Am Kloot Play Moolah Rouge – showing that Bramwell is as powerful a creative force as ever. Of these, "Someone Like You", "Ferris Wheels" and "Suddenly Strange" captured the timeless quality that is a feature of all Bramwell's best work.

I Am Kloot play seven more dates between now and 3 May. It would be nice to think that they are the sell-outs this band deserves.

On tour to 3 May

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