It is fair to say that I am not the biggest fan of the Notting Hill Arts Club. To me, it represents the overblown excesses that killed Dance Music applied to our own beloved indie and punk. For goodness sake, the place doesn’t even sell real beer – it’s a choice of “handcrafted by artisinal whelks in Cambodia” or “Brewed from the tears of Icelandic nightingales” at £3-something a pop. Worse, tonight’s DJ obviously had not considered the later musical direction of the evening and proceeded to serenade the “well dressed” Notting Hill crowd’s la-di-dah accents with a cacophonous selection of bad Soul and Blues, meeting his nadir with what I can only presume to have been Shirley Bassey covering the Doors.
I was strongly considering throwing in the towel and going home early (mostly after some pretentious arsehole walked up to me and said “Ah! You must be from the East End!”), when OK Junior took to the stage. They were worth the wait.
Sporting an indecent number of guitars, they avoid the obvious urge to thrash them and keep their sounds mellow and flowing. It’s like the Who circa Pinball Wizard tapping into the hidden, prog-rock spirit of Radiohead and passing Gorkys, the Stone Roses and Television on the journey. To be fair, the vocalists won’t win any awards, but there’s an energy here rarely found in anything but punk in this day and age.
Song after song broke forth, swiftly dispelling the evil rumour put about on the internet that OK Junior merely represent the bastard offspring of the Beta Band. Were the Beta Band ever nearly this competent or listenable? No. There is a distinct originality here, which is lacking from most of the new music around. Everyone may buy records by Babyshambles, the Editors and the Magic Numbers, but they are merely thinly disguised pastiches of the ground-breaking artists of the past. Ok Junior, on the other hand give us on a plate something new. Enjoy it whilst it lasts.