S.C.U.M/Big Deal/Toy – NME Awards Show, Bush Hall, London – Live review

Originally published: NME magazine

The ink has barely had time to dry on the A4 paper that is being hastily Blu-Tacked to the front door of Bush Hall. A small group of lads in their late-teens gather around the notice: ‘TOY WILL NOT BE PLAYING DUE TO ILLNESS’. They mutter in monotones, shrug their shoulders in unison, and make their way to the nearest pub. For some, Friday night hasn’t kicked off with the psychedelic tones that they would have wished for.

But the show must go on. At least you would think. Big Deal stumble out of the blocks with a pop, whistle and wheeze through the speakers thanks to some shoddy sound engineering. Their mellifluous debut album, 2011’s ‘Lights Out’, doesn’t particularly loan itself to such a din, and there is a brief moment where the girl/boy duo of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood appear more sombre than usual. Opener ‘Chair’ puts a smile on the face of the crowd, at least, as their vocals entwine in a lover’s embrace and sonically waltz around the ornate Bush Hall. What they lack in a rhythm section makes them reliant on what they do have in an ear for a heartfelt guitar hook and gorgeous melodies, which shine through in ‘Cool Like Kurt’, ‘Swoon’ and the beautiful ‘Seraphine’.

Headliners S.C.U.M are quite the antithesis, in comparison. Led by the histrionic Thomas Cohen, the London-based quintet take to a stage blitzed with strobe lighting and a whir of synthetic noise. Many parallels have been drawn between themselves and The Horrors, and it’s plain to see why. Their motorik beats and Moog/Korg orchestrations lend themselves to that of their luminaries; not to mention bass player Huw Webb’s movements on stage miming that of his brother, Spider. But S.C.U.M do come pulling punches of their own, landing them with a well-rehearsed precision. Cohen is captivating as a frontman as he flounces across the stage part Morrissey, part Curtis during ‘Amber Hands’. ‘Faith Unfolds’, driven by Melissa Rigby’s metronomic drumming talents, unfurls with heavy romanticism, while closing track ‘Whitechapel’ encourages some lysergic dance moves from the crowd with it’s The Farm-inspired baggy beats.

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