Capsule: High Maintenance & The Kazoo Funk Orchestra
Dublin Castle, London; 25 July 2007
The madness starts beforehand, when a burly, bearded Scots bloke starts giving out fluorescent kazoos to a knot of damp, shivering smokers outside the venue. Inside it gets no less strange. A man dressed in medical scrubs rhetorically asks from the stage, “Do you think we fucked that pop-punk song?” before informing us that the next song is called ‘Muffdiver’. The song features the word ‘shagpipe’. It is about exactly what you think it is.
Welcome then, to the slightly deranged world of the Kazoo Funk Orchestra (henceforth KFO). A nine-strong Scots collective – featuring the talents of, inter alia, Big Beard, Little Beard, Krash Slaughta and Jim N Tonic – at first glance KFO seem to share much of the current vogue for multi-headed, multi-instrumental hydrabands, a Caledonian Go Team, or a Really Fucked Social Scene.
Listen closely though, and it’s clear that their art school poses have longer antecedents: the angularity and precisely irregular timekeeping of Talking Heads; the irreverence towards their source material as practiced by Gomez; the blokey shoutiness of Goldie Lookin’ Chain. The taking of a story of that evening’s London Lite and turning it into an impromptu song shows that they’ve drunk deep at the well of the Bonzo Dog Band too. And the glitter-filled balloons strewn across the floor was a lovely touch from this bunch of slightly freaky charmers.
They end with ‘Disco Disco Disco Theque’, which – of course – sounds nothing like a disco, but instead is a woozy rampage through a carnival. On this evidence, KFO sound like the perfect orchestra for your own woozy rampages.
High Maintenance, by comparison, are a much more traditional affair: guitars, bass, drums, rock and roll and no comedy percussion. But my, what rock and roll. The High (the Maintenance?) specialise in a type of power pop – think The Posies, Gigolo Aunts – that these isles have historically been pretty poor at producing. That, thankfully, looks set to change.
Cleverly, they have two pieces of eye candy as a visual counterpoint. Frontman Tim O’Connor, in his glacial intensity, is eerily reminiscent of Guy Chadwick of the House of Love. To his left, bassist Mike Ward is all sweat and sex. Well, that at least seemed to be the reaction of the ladies in front of me.
It’s not just prettiness though. HM know their way round the canon. Opener ‘We’re All Policemen Now’ has enough sweetness underlying its paranoia to remind you of a happier Screaming Trees, while ‘Souvenir’ shows that they have chops, bringing to the fore James Houston and Tim’s sterling twin guitar attack. And in Mike and drummer Dave Houston, HM have a rhythm section of relentless power. Indeed Dave appears to defy physics, generating an unfeasibly huge sound from just a kick drum, snare and one tom tom.
They leave to a fierce, and fiercely-controlled, blow out, and leave us wanting more. High Maintenance are clearly going to be worth the hassle.