The NME Thing: Mansun/King Adora/Sunna/Mull Historical Society (Astoria, London)

I knew I had to do the NME thing at some point during my time in Britain. Tonight I went to a Mansun/King Adora/Sunna/Mull Historical Society gig at the Astoria with Matt, Alec and Nina. As I’ve said before here, it wasn’t the first gig I’d choose to go to out of all available, but Matt wanted to go, and I figured I might as well go since I’d have company.

We got there during Mull Historical Society’s set. I can’t say I was distressed at having missed any of it. I suppose a charitable music journalist could call their lack of packaging, stage presence or sound quality refreshing in this age of manufactured musicality, but I was underwhelmed. Of course, if they become the next Radiohead, I’ll have to delete this post hurriedly and drop smug little references into conversations about how I watched them when they were unknown and knew they were going to make it big, but somehow I’m not too worried about that happening.

The second act, Sunna, was definitely an improvement. Sure, they didn’t sound like much more than a rather derivative heavy rock/lite metal Bush/Metallica/Pearl Jam amalgam, but they had catchy enough riffs, showmanship, and at least some level of variation in their songs. They had the Metallica ballad, the White Zombie-esque dancey metally track, the Pearl Jam’s Spin The Black Circle stylie thrash, and other appropriately dark toned, minor keyed extended jams, all involving lots of flashing lights and people risking whiplash. All good fun.

King Adora. Hmm. I didn’t realize how many of their songs I actually knew until I heard them perform. I was generally distracted during their set by the antics of a group of what looked like 14 year olds who were obviously huge fans. One had orange King Adora bumper stickers stuck across his face. At the end he ripped them off in a swift and manly gesture and waved them ecstatically in the air. Ten seconds later, one hand came down from its aerial worship and surreptitiously checked an eyebrow. Ouch.

The main feeling I had at the end of Mansun’s gig was frustration. This is a band whose first album I thoroughly enjoyed, whose second album I thought showed a significant evolution of sound, and whose third and most recent album I felt to be profoundly uninspired and so tediously Mansunesque it sounded like a Mansun tribute band.

Live, The Chad Who Loved Me, Taxloss, Blown It/Special and Wide Open Space (all from Attack Of The Grey Lantern and Six) were immensely satisfying, and Paul Draper can definitely sing live. But ultimately, these performances just showed up the mediocrity of the new material even more. I Can Only Disappoint You was as boring live as it is on the album. They tried to give Electric Man some resonance by washing the band in warm yellow light during the chorus (“Bring your sunshine to me, oh, electric man”) but if the music doesn’t move me, clever lighting won’t change that.

Other musings:

Is there some unwritten requirement that when you go to a gig, if you don’t have a T-shirt of a band performing, you have to wear another one with some other band in the “scene” on it?

Do indie boys really think that disgusting haircut (and I use the terminology loosely) looks good? Only Beck looks cool with it, boys. And that’s actually just because he’s Beck. It’s still a dumb haircut even on his dear little genius head.