A Final Sound + Joy de Vivre
Soirée Cerise – Ixelles – Sunday 29th March 2009
I wasn’t allowed out until I’d finished my homework, so I only caught the final 2 minutes of A Final Sound.
I did get chance for a chat with a very jovial Jean-Marc in the bar while he was hunting down a beer. I’d been in touch with him quite some time ago when he was looking to set up what became his Csygnus project.
J: What on earth possessed you to set up a tribute to one of the most influential and admired bands in the history of…
JM: Schizophrenia. (He cuts me off with a large grin). I've tried the medicine, and it just doesn’t work, so the only thing that keeps me sane is music and indulging in my split personality disorder by actually being different personalities in different musical projects. That includes being part of Jean-Luc Demeyer’s latest side project, Modern Cubism.
He explained that they were jamming Cure songs last year and realised it would be cool to actually go out and play them to a live audience. J-M had been part of a Cure tribute act in London in the late ‘90s – he went over for a week to play with some guys he’d met at a (Cure!) gig in Brussels – they’d just lost their guitarist – and ended up staying for 5 ½ years. It does help that he looks and sounds just like Fat Bob – slightly cuddly with the same hair and make up, and listening to the various Myspace sites, his voice is absolutely spot on.
As I mentioned – I missed almost all of the gig, but I did bump into an old mate who is a huge Cure fan.
J: Was it any good?
T: Well, JM didn’t quite seem to grasp the finer points of the emotion of some of the songs, and a bass that wasn’t slung a few centimetres from the floor didn’t really do it for me.
J: Are you glad you came?
T: Oh yes – the first 3 songs were magic, and it would have been worth the trip just to see 100 Years.
That’s coming from a guy who has every Cure album ever released, and has seen them live quite a number of times.
A Final Sound are playing at the Pot Au Lait in Liege on 11th April. If you’re a Cure fan, it should be a real treat to hear all your favourite songs in a small venue. If I’m allowed out, I’ll be there.
Joy division tribute band from Limburg. There’s only 3 of them – the guitarist fills the roles of both Ian and Barney.
Joy division have been one of my favourite bands for over ¼ of a century. The sheer simplicity and austerity, the darkness of the vocals, the aggressive and omnipresent bass, the driving, mechanical drums, the understated guitar.
First thing that’s wrong is the gear. It’s all top quality. You would never have heard Steve’s drums fleshed up with amplification and reverb, there’s no way Barney & Hooky could have afforded a genuine Fender guitar and bass, and the amplification would have been cheap & nasty. That very struggle against less than ideal instruments and amps goes a long way to explaining the feel of Joy Division as a band – 4 young lads from the harsh working class Manchester of the late ‘70s with very no money, no hope, and one hell of an attitude.
If you’ve seen Hooky live, you’ll know that he hangs his bass on his balls, handles it like it’s a Kalashnikov, and has a mesmerising stage presence. Bart looks a bit like a spare part. He wears his bass where there’s no hint danger of danger of it smashing into the audience and instead of a pick (shock horror!) he uses… his fingers! To make matters worse, he’s not playing the parts right. Adding notes at times, missing them out at others, and on Love Will Tears Us Apart, doesn’t even play the main theme!
The drumming isn’t quite right either though it’s hard to explain exactly what’s wrong with it. Maybe it’s not quite tight and repetitive enough; maybe it’s just a decent, modern sound that’s just not authentic. Steve hits things like he's possessed by a compulsion disorder. This guy seems to be enjoying himself.
Guido on everything else does a remarkably good job of the vocals – he genuinely does sound quite like Ian Curtis, and his delivery is pretty good (could have been a bit louder in the mix though). However is guitar playing is far too accomplished, and that doesn’t work for me. The whole point of Barney is that he seems self conscious and unassured, almost as it he needn't be there at all. I don’t quite buy the announcement of every other song and the rather long pauses in-between either.
When we get to Atmosphere, Guido switches to keyboards and things improve quite dramatically. Rather more authentically, this is an instrument he doesn't seem to master very well. He’s playing one of the parts wrong (as I would have expected Barney to do), and despite the modern synth, the sound is suitably verging towards the cheesy. Closing my eyes, I can almost believe it.
Unusually, the police have made an appearance la Flute Enchantée and have - err - requested an end to proceedings at 23:00, so we are treated (if that’s the appropriate word) to one final song. Shadowplay features a guest vocalist. This guy must have been a genuine punk in the late 70’s, and while he has certainly grown older, he hasn’t grown up. Shouting the words into a mike, both out of tune and out of time whilst pogoing like a randy squirrel on speed is not an appropriate treatment of a Joy Division masterpiece. In fact, it is unequivocally bloody awful.
Mercifully, it’s time to retire to the bar.
Tribute or not tribute?
Don’t get me wrong about Joy de Vivre – they are decent musicians, but when I go to see a “tribute” band, I expect to see pretty much an incarnation of the real thing. Joy division without a proper Hooky does not work for me, and the rest of the attention to detail was missing. The personalities just weren't there. The Cure however has always revolved around Robert Smith, and if you get that right, which by all accounts Jean-Marc seems to have done, then you get to see something very close to the real thing in the sort of venue that the real thing haven’t been able to play in for over ¼ of a century.
One of the problems is that you’re almost invariably going to be playing in front of a number of hard-core fans who know the repertoire and know what they expect almost as well as you do. That’s one hell of a tough audience to impress. And that means it's not enough just to play covers - you have to become the band.
So what makes for a good tribute band?
I think we should leave the last word to Jean-Marc, as he put it so eloquently: Schizophrenia.