JOHN, Arndales and Dad Hair @ the Birdcage, Southsea

Review by Keith Sandys

It was a hot and sweaty Saturday night in Southsea. One where promoters Calamity Cratediggers could easily have renamed themselves “Clammy Cratediggers” due to the humidity.

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If anyone wasn’t aware there was a gig on above the Festing Pub this evening, they were by the time Dad Hair had started.  While I struggled to walk in the blazing sunshine, I could already hear they had come on halfway down the street.

So while that meant I missed half their set, I did at least still see some of Dad Hair once I finally arrived. Only rather than in a birdcage, the room was already starting to resemble an overheated fishbowl.

While I’m not struck on the name, Dad Hair were, however, a decent live band. Think along the lines of early Nirvana and Mudhoney or Sonic Youth. Basically, if you also like fuzzy guitars and 90’s grunge, then Dad Hair are worth checking out.

Obsessed with the state of the high street and their home county of Bedfordshire, Arndalesrelease new album “Shops”. It also draws influence from sharing a Google document with their friends about anecdotes at work. Plus they’ve also become firm favourites with no other than Black Flag’s very own Henry Rollins.

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arndales

Even if in concept only, I was already liking the sound of this band. Their track “Prestige Pricing” samples an old-fashioned till, but it’s far from a masterpiece such as “Money” by Pink Floyd. As for performing “Shops” live, Arndales were a little sloppy, but to be honest I didn’t mind that at all. The keys were a bit haphazard, but somehow giving an unnerving edge to the band, albeit a little low in the mix.

Then there was “Dark Store”, where singer Alan Arndale gave an insight into the content of the song. As anticipated, it was again to be based around retail. This time the warehouses that front as the stock room for online shopping. Speaking of which, in hindsight, I wish I treated myself to a copy of the album, subliminal message maybe?

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While again I thought the name JOHN was a bit lame (they could have been called, Bill or George…) it’s simplicity grew on me once I knew they were a 2 piece, both named John. There’s been a huge influx in 2 piece bands in recent years, with the likes of Slaves and Royal Blood taking the limelight.

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The thing is though when you’re as good as JOHN you don’t need anyone else’s help. With John on drums and vocals, along with John on guitar, the two lads from London made enough noise between them.

I’ve always been fascinated by drummers who can play and sing at the same time. Growing up they always seemed to be kept literally on the back seat. Often only singing lead for ballads, such as Peter Criss from Kiss on “Beth”, or the Eagles Don Henley. Although someone once said, “It was a sad day in rock and roll when Phil Collins stepped away from his drum kit”.

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Luckily, however, John stays firmly seated throughout. How he manages to keep it up though is another matter. The rhythms aren’t exactly straightforward, while vocally he’s needed to compliment the heavy riffs brought to us by John number two.

The compelling thing about JOHN is they were pretty relentless, while almost all of it is just about the drums and vocals. Although it wouldn’t work without an almost telepathic connection with John’s namesake on guitar. Even with the new songs the pair were tight and well-rehearsed, certainly proving they deserve the support slot for their upcoming tour with Idles.

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