|Whatís The Point In Being Bored?
Smoosh at Cargo, London. November 28th 2005
|Rule One in the Spirit
of Independence rulebook: Do it because it thrills you. When it fails
to thrill you, stop and do something else that thrills you more. Rule
Two: now tear up the rulebook and throw the pieces on the fire.
It was Paul Morley who once asked ďwhatís the point in being bored?Ē He was using the question as a means of talking about the Fire Engines, a post-punk band who played incendiary 15 minute sets of background music for active lives, but itís equally central to understanding the essential appeal of Smoosh, some 25 years later on. For you see the idea of the thrill of the chase and the chase of the thrill is something that teenagers understand implicitly. Itís instinctive. Which is why there are so many garages and attics filled with barely used fishing rods, hockey sticks, guitars and goodness knows what all else. Thankfully for us, Seattle sisters Smoosh (Aysa 13 and Chloe 11) are still infatuated with their musical instruments, are still thrilled by the things they can do with them.
Smoosh are making music, are in a band because it feels right at the moment. They are never being boring and they are never being bored. They do what they do for the love of the moment and of the experience, not as part of a carefully choreographed quest for fame and fortune. And if they do get bored with the music they go and play soccer or jump around on the trampoline. These things matter. These things matter because they alone would mark Smoosh out from the hordes of parentally pushed teens so desperate for their thirty seconds of mediated stardom. It gives them a natural poise and an impressive cool factor that cannot be bought or manufactured, and that, in the end, is what really counts; is what makes them sound so spectacularly fresh and special. And in this, their debut London show, Smoosh DO sound fresh and impossibly special.
Sure, at first they seem a little tense and rigid. Sure, for a fleeting moment it feels like this could be a disappointment, a case of the hype being overblown and impossible to live up to. But then itís like a switch is flicked somewhere and they loosen up. Asya is suddenly belting out their lyrics of teenage obsessions with a poise and a passion that belies her age, sounding like some glorious soul sister locked in a battle with post-punk heroines. She hammers her two keyboards and what comes out is perfectly formed, veering between proto-electro Pop and stripped back Olympian punk, with sudden washes of uplifting Italian House chords punctuating the mix. Chloe meanwhile stretches out her long limbs and pounds her kit like thereís no tomorrow, all the while understanding the value of restraint and control. Hers is no showy Rock performance, but rather a laser focused beam of modernist precision which marks her out as having a righteous claim to join the likes of Lindy Morrison and Janet Weiss on the list that shows why women drummers rule.
And whatís best of all is that despite those few
idly tossed reference points,
it doesnít remind me of a single thing Iíve heard before. This is the first time
in an age that I have seen a band play where I am not subconsciously filing away
a host of comparisons and parallels. Itís
another part of the puzzle of what makes them so special: the songs sound so
natural, so perfectly poised and instinctively aware of what makes great Pop.
They sound fresh and vivid and alive, full of the joy of just being
songs. The new ones from the forthcoming album (which they just recently
finished recording ≠ expect a Spring/Summer 2006 release) especially are astonishing
nuggets of supple powerpopping brilliance. Even on first hearing they are indecently
infectious, and there are at least three that could be storming singles of such
breathtaking perfection that all the oldsters (like anyone over 16) might as
well stop right now.
Naturally understanding the importance of never being boring, Smoosh donít play for long (15 songs is still a short set in terms of time ≠ they certainly do understand the value of concise songwriting). Itís just enough for the sold-out crowd of intrigued hipsters and already rabid fans to realise they are seeing something special, beautiful and pure; all too soon they are gone, jumping off the stage with shy waves and grins, leaving everyone (despite two encores) wanting more. There are cries of Ďwe love youí from the audience and much muttered excitement. Itís all a bit surreal.
Now Bill Drummond has said in the past that you should never meet your heroes, and thatís always seemed like good advice to me, so before thereís even the remotest opportunity for introductions to be made, I slink out into the Shoreditch night, past the giant rat and down into the Underground. For Smoosh are indeed heroes, though not for who they are. Rather itís for what they are doing, for the spirit of natural independence that they represent, most likely without even realising it. Which of course is part of the reason it exists in the first place.
Long may they continue to not be boring. Long may they never be bored.
© 2005 Alistair Fitchett