YACHT - The Ruby Lounge, Manchester - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

YACHT - The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

by Niall O'Conghaile Rating: Release Date:

My initial gut reaction to Yacht was one of cynicism. They just tick all the hipster-cliché boxes so heavily that I found it hard to take them seriously. Let's examine the evidence: electro-rock/triangle-logo/skin-tight jeans/ambiguous metrosexuality/small run screenprints/home-made t-shirts/disco beats played in a plodding DFA style/rock covers played in a plodding DFA style/actually being signed to DFA/not sounding like Phil Collins

The last time I saw the Yacht live was at the opening night of the then-new Matter venue in the O2 arena in London. The band were on as part of a DFA review, and owing to the size and nature of the venue they got completely lost. Two distant dots bouncing about in a concrete box does not the best of shows make. It was my first time seeing them, and the root cause of my dismissal of them. Argh, another achingly hip project from the achingly hip New York label that was beginning to lose its edge.

I think the problem was compounded when I discovered the delights of MEN. The band that is - I discovered the delights of actual men way previous. MEN do everything Yacht do, and to these ears they do it better. They too are home-made-screenprint-triangle-metrosexual-electro-rockers, but with the advantage of being fronted by the instantly recognisable JD Samson, and the massive bonus of having some instantly recognisable tunes to boot.

Now, all this sounds like it's leading up to a bad review - it isn't. I actually enjoyed Yacht's show, despite having just stepped off a train and desperate to get home to my bed. I decided that I would stay for half an hour, which stretched to 40 minutes, which expanded to leaving before the encore, but which I decided to check out anyway as the band did the gracious thing of walking off-stage, turning right round and walking straight back out again. Their encore was in fact an electro-rock cover of Judas Priest's 'Breaking the Law', which while it did plod along in that typically straight-white DFA disco way, was also good fun.

The problem with seeing Yacht at Matter was compounded by the fact that that performance featured just core members Jona and Claire on stage. This time, thankfully, they were accompanied by a full live band. The crowd at the Ruby Lounge, while not really kicking off, were appreciative, and there was some very good inter-song banter between Claire and some members of the audience. After declaring her love for Manchester, she was heckled with some very pro-Manchester chat by a guy in the crowd. She asked if this guy happened to be a member of the local council - it turned out that he was! He proceeded to prove it to her by handing her his ID card, and she in turn showed it to the crowd, declaring that it was a new council initiative of planting people in underground parties to big up the city.

That was the point I began to warm to the band. In the vastness of Matter, surrounded by lots of annoying London scenesters, their innate charm was totally lost. Here, in the much more intimate Ruby Lounge, it shone. I'm assuming the smattering of grey haired old fogies in the crowd were there to gawp at the beautiful Claire, but her natural wit and easy going articulacy make her much more than just a sex object. She's actually a pretty decent front-person. Whereas before her hyperactivity seemed put on to fill up a massive empty space, here it comes across as natural enthusiasm.

Oh, and the tunes aren't bad either. Current album Shangi-La is a definite improvement on the previous See Mystery Lights, and with tracks like 'Dystopia (The Earth is Burning)' and in particular the very catchy 'Love in the Dark' ("I love you like a ticking clock") they may even begin to attract fans from beyond the hipster elite. Like me. Cos I am totally not a hipster. They even snuck in a cover of the B-52s 'Mesopotamia' sung by the guitarist Katy. This direct referencing of the elder states-people of Yank-based party-rock actually clicked the band and what they do into place in my mind.

So charmed was I by Yacht in fact, that I even bought a CD from the merch table. Shangri-La is a good album and definitely worth checking out. And I have to admit, even though MEN are my band, the t-shirts Yacht had on sale were easily better than those of JD's mob. Get it together, Samson!

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