Declan Welsh And The Decadent West & Natalie Shay – The Waiting Room – June 18th 2019

Declan Welsh, Scottish indie agitator, is in his stride at the Waiting Room on a rainy Tuesday evening. He’s chatting about his mate, Gary, who passed away a couple of years ago on his 22nd birthday. Declan tells us how Gary was the nicest, most caring and humble man you’d ever be likely to meet. On returning from his own gigs supporting The Last Shadow Puppets (Gary was the frontman of an up and coming act, The Lapelles), Gary was only interested in finding out how Declan’s tour of the North of Scotland had gone. Not an overtly political guy, Gary still had compassion in bucketloads according to Declan. For Declan, who merges the personal with the political so astutely throughout this gig, true socialism is organised compassion. He plays a song, Times, about Gary in celebration of who he was.

Sonic Breakfast is reminded that we saw one of those Lapelles support slots. Nobody could have predicted that just months later, Gary would no longer be charting a path to the pyramid. I reviewed the De Montfort Hall show for the Leicester Mercury but my words about The Lapelles got cut in the final edit. I check back over my notes on the bus ride back home from Declan’s set. They don’t reveal much aside from The Lapelles are from Glasgow; they’re kind of what you’d expect from a LSP support; there’s something about belt and braces, sixties jangle, skinny boys with guitars and pop sensibility. I do remember being quite enamoured with their set though. 

It pays to see the support act. If I’m not otherwise engaged I will always make the point  of doing so. Tonight’s support is Natalie Shay and I feel for her. Her crowd consists of me, two relations and polite members of Declan’s band. Despite the low turnout and to her credit, Natalie (and bandmate Joey), still go for it like they’re playing Wembley. They both play acoustic guitars; Natalie doing the rhythm bits and Joey the lead.

Natalie Shay is nearly but not quite an anagram of Shania Twain – and it’s that sort of polished, glossy country-pop that the hair-flicking and head-tossing Natalie seems to specialise in. Made for Radio 2, the growing careers of the likes of Catherine McGrath must give encouragement to this 20 year old from North London. There are strains of Joni Mitchell when Natalie veers into folkier territory. Ultimately though, tonight I want my music to snarl and this is too polite.

 

On the surface, Declan Welsh and The Decadent West are indie fodder. They’re clearly aficionados of white-boy indie guitar music. This is an act that has consumed the back catalogues of the Arctic Monkeys, Suede and Franz Ferdinand for influence. In their heavier, more spoken-word moments, some of Declan’s tunes give an appreciative nod towards The Hold Steady and the literate storytelling of Craig Finn.

What sets Declan apart though from some standard indie landfill is his political rage. In ‘Different Strokes’ he intelligently rants about the occupation of Palestine having seen at first hand the devastation caused. He brings things back to a personal level by playing tunes about Kurt Vonnegut, provincial nightclubs and heartfelt break-ups. Jumping straight back on the soapbox, he rightly calls out Rory Stewart’s voting record (“Fuck Rory Stewart”) before launching into the set highlight (for me at least). ‘Do what you want’ swaggers with indie-funk as it rallies for tolerant thinking about sexuality. “The stench of Section 28 is just another reason why we should never forgive the Tories” says Declan. (Or words to that effect – I confess I struggle to fully work out his thick, Glaswegian accent at times).

The personal again comes to the fore for the encore. Declan’s fine band step to one side allowing him to play a solo version of Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Say A Little Prayer’. It’s a quality moment and I warm to this lad even more.

Getrz, Walt Disco and Cheap Teeth – The Old Blue Last – February 27th 2019

I’m back at the Old Blue Last for the second time this week.London sizzles in unseasonably warm temperatures and the heat in the Airbnb shows little sign of being any less stifling.I’m here for no other reason than my eye was caught by a band name; Walt Disco is a fine name for a band.

They’ve travelled all the way from Glasgow to be with us tonight. Perhaps that explains why they’re not topping the bill but are sandwiched between two others on this ‘Club Sabbath’ night. It’s a long way home.

Imagine it’s the early 1980’s and you’ve bagged a ticket for Top Of The Pops. Jimmy Savile, replete with gold lame jacket and fat cigar ‘accidentally’ fondles a young girl whilst half paying attention to the band he’s just introduced. A singer preens, pouts and warbles in a shin-length, woollen military jacket that temporarily covers his torso before he throws it to the floor. A keyboard player with bleached blonde hair plays notes from strange looking instruments perched perilously on an ironing board that’s seen better days. Harry Potter, not yet made famous by JK Rowling plays bass. This is the post-punk of Walt Disco. It’s got a pompous peacock strut, a strident theatricality and a pop sensibility. Phil Oakey, Ian McCulloch and Edwyn Collins better watch out. Here we have the new contenders. 

To my mind, the obvious derivations don’t matter. Walt Disco might wear their influences close to their chests but this is 2019 and we don’t want our indie to paint pictures of the Arctic Monkeys by numbers. With Walt Disco, you can feel both terrified and terrific; misfits and oddballs, there’s a lot here to like. 

 

Getrz (pronounced Getters apparently) are pretty normal by comparison. They headline tonight to a crowd that has diminished in size. This is a shame; you can see confidence wilting as the set progresses..From Swindon, you suspect that they’re local heroes in their own neck of the woods. But this is London and the crowd are a tad harsher. We’ve seen the gimmicks, the rock poses, the shirtless torsos and the audience forays before. 

Have any lads out there got trouble with their Mrs?”, asks Getrz’s ginger, squat lead singer before launching into a song, perhaps called ‘Domestics’, that features a shouty chorus of “You’re fucked – and your Mrs. doesn’t like you”. The last bastions of yesterday’s masculinity, you want to like them for their no-nonsense straightness. They’re not far away from finding their own, distinct niche and, when they do, this’ll be a very real possibility. 

 

Openers for the night, Cheap Teeth are competent at what they do. They’ve travelled all the way from Edinburgh to be here. My notes suggest that they’re like a more raucous Franz Ferdinand and that they’ve clearly listened to ‘Peaches’ by the Stranglers. An interesting John Cooper Clarke like spoken word section in one of their tunes helps maintain my flagging interest. 

It’s no doubt hard to be original these days; somewhere, someplace it’s all been done before. And there’s nothing wrong per se with being in debt to your heroes. In different ways, all three acts on tonight’s bill have nailed that worship to a tee. Now, they need to give consideration to who they really want to be.