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24 July 2003

Playlouder Singles Club 10
London, Barfly

Supporting Chikinki and supported by Johnny Boy

Review by David Exley

Playing initially to a half-full venue, Chikinki's fantastically named singer Rupert Browne can't decide if he's Mick Jagger circa '69 or Frank Spencer. In one bewildering moment, seemingly at a loss at what to do next, he holds Boris Ecton's keyboard aloft for a few strange seconds (Bozza somehow still doesn't hit a wrong note, even on tiptoes) before gently placing it back on its stand. "I didn't want to hurt it Betty!" At the same time, frustrated by the fact that he isn't an adored rock star already, he twitches around the stage as if possessed by some Coopers-coiffured son of Beelzebub. Not being able to stand the sacred void in front of him he jumps down from the stage and proceeds to shout lyrics literally in people's faces. You could say Browne's shenanigans seemed a tad desperate and you'd be right. But as the place fills up he calms down on the crazy shit and lets the crazy music do the talking. And what music it is, sounding almost like five members of five different bands trying to out-do each other. So we have guitarist Ed East looking like an apprentice roadie at a Stereophonics/Ocean Colour Scene double headlined torture-fest, Browne looking like he could have been rejected from the Coopers for being too style-conscious, while other keyboardist/sampladelic-dude Trev Wensley is remarkably reminiscent of Les of Big Night Out fame. Incorporating funereal organ, scatterbeats and squelchy moog grooves, it's an eclectic sound that's at its best during the final instrumental wig-out that frankly wouldn't have been long enough if it had gone on forever.

Carina Round is an entirely different proposition. Eschewing any need for a hipper-than-thou image, the Anglo-Italian (Ooh, glamorous!) songstress from Wolverhampton (Ooh, er...) looks divine in a plain black dress. Like PJ Harvey trapped in the body of Frasier’s Daphne, she's backed by a bassist (sometimes double), a drummer and a guitarist that must surely wake up everyday thinking, "How can I make myself look even more like The Edge?". Tearing straight into a blistering opener, she exudes a genuine, relentless passion that leaves much of the audience stunned. Building up an immense wall of sound, they sound like triple the sum of their parts and after one song, I'm in love. The fact that it's not until the last song that I feel quite the same level of adoration can't help but detract slightly from the performance. Maybe it's a case of playing your best card too early but I couldn't help yearning for The Edge's slight post-rock tinglings to come more to the fore during the middle of the set. It was a great performance, however, all stomping, yelping and twitching (must be contagious) and I'm sure she won over a few new fans. With the final, frenzied track, they whip up a storm, culminating in her ripping the strings from her (admittedly acoustic, but come on!) guitar with her bare hands. Devastatingly poignant and embittered stuff.

The appearance of a certain Mr. James Dean Bradfield brings some added glamour to proceedings (though Mr. Wire's feather boa alone would have brought ten times more) as headliners Johnny Boy take the stage. He produced the beautiful debut single 'Johnny Boy Theme' and even paid for it out of his own Greatest Hits-earned money, the saint. Sadly, some of the audience leave before they play it as a euphoric finale, missing out on some gorgeous harmonies, soulful samples (is that really David McAlmont?), and a melody sent from heaven. Even sadder, this is their only really inspired moment. Maybe the fact there's only two of them on stage, yet a million different sounds emanating from the speakers, is a little off-putting. Maybe there's not enough variation in the set. Maybe we're still reeling from the performances that went before. Who knows, but something just isn't right. Thing is, closing with 'Johnny Boy Theme', they manage to save the set.

Originally online at

Review by Melissa

First of all, Chikinki need to get a new singer, and fast. The music was actually quite good if you ignored the mong having a hissy fit, desperately trying to dry hump the unfortunate slow-running girls up front - the keyboards and high-hat in particular were very good indeed. Get rid of him and the pirate booty shall follow, I promise.

Carina Round needed no help whatsoever to become the highlight of the evening. The best solo female singer I've seen since PJ Harvey (well, I've never actually seen her, but you know what I mean!), she had strength in songwriting, strength of voice, and strength of character, all of which are destined to bring her into the mainstream, narrowly avoiding the Dido Route into our collective bosom.

Johnny Boy strutted out as the essence of cool - completely black, right down to their matching hair dyes, no spotlights but instead choosing the proijections to prove there was in fact only two people making that much noise. Unfortunately, though, the initial attention factor soon faded when it was obvious they had only one droning song in their (albeit short) repetoire, and a sub-BRMC one at that. I enjoyed a few recorded songs of theirs previously, but in live they just fell flat.

Originally online at