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Seal Cub Clubbing Club – My Gigging Year

December 5, 2010

Guitarist Si Stephens exhibiting SCCC's instrument-switching tendencies

Sometime in late 2009 I started listening to 6music. A friend of mine had once mentioned how good it was to me, but I somehow didn’t take him up on his recommendation and it was many months later when I finally started to give it a listen. I had actually given up on radio at the time, thinking that it was full of music that I simply have no interest in listening to, repeated endlessly on tiny playlists. And it mostly is (I am talking of mainstream radio here, I have no idea about anything else), with the notable exception of 6music. It is not without its flaws as it too has a (relatively) small playlist, and some of the dj’s are better than others, but on the whole the station gives some great presenters the chance to do their own thing at their own pace and showcase a range of music that was previously untouched by mainstream radio. Refreshing.

I mention all this because 6music had a lot to do with my musical renaissance at the start of the year – it pretty much directed half of the gigs I went to in 2010. Chew Lips were the first of 2010 and were heard first by myself on 6music, and the same was true of Seal Cub Clubbing Club. I’m not known for having a good memory, so the fact that I can’t remember which song it was that caught my attention shouldn’t come as a big surprise. My best guess is that it was Dawn Lamb, and if it was then it would make good sense: it’s probably my favourite song off their debut album, and is a good place to start with the band. Whichever song it was, it made a big impression on me, and I downloaded the album pronto.

Soon after listening to the album I realised ‘Super Science Fiction’ was my best musical find since TV on the Radio’s debut ‘Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes’, and I went out and got tickets to their next gig in London, which thankfully wasn’t too far away. The venue was 93 Feet East on Brick Lane, one of the more unusual and charming venues I’ve been to. That night was the first time I saw them and, to be honest, was so long ago now that I have forgotten the precise details of that performance. The impression they left on me after their performance was pretty clear, however – this was a very talented bunch of guys, if possibly a little to introverted as performers for their own good. They could play the songs from their debut with ease, and I found out after talking to them (they are a great bunch of lads) that this was partly due to the fact that they had been playing the same songs for years at that point. But even with the finesse they showed in playing tightly even in their more intricate numbers, there was something lacking in their live show – a common touch, an empathy with the crowd as a whole. Me, personally, I loved every second of their set, but I could tell the crowd didn’t get on with their sometimes hard to penetrate song structures and offbeat lyrics, but probably their biggest flaw was the fact that they spent far too little time looking in the direction of the crowd – it makes a big difference! Still, even with these flaws, I thought their gig at 93 Feet East was brilliant.

I saw them again much later in the year at Monto Water Rats, a worse venue in every way, where they showcased much of the material for their then to-be-released sophomore album, ‘Royal Variety’. They again showcased their caginess when playing their set, though this time they had the excuse of being unfamiliar with their set for looking at their instruments for most of the gig. While their first gig, and album, was difficult to fathom at times they at least had a recognisable pop core that you could latch onto. The second time I saw them, their set could easily be described as bewildering by someone less familiar with their work, but I appreciate the courage SCCC show in daring to be different. Their current single Made of Magic, for example, was a stand-out track that night for all the right reasons: hyperactive vocals that come out at a speed that most rappers would have trouble with that are backed up with equally boisterous drums made the ridiculously hot room shake with energy, while Charity’s horse-riding drumbeat drove the song along with aplomb and had me riveted for the duration of the song.

It should be said that I am a huge fan of SCCC, and I think that they have made 2 great albums and can play their songs well on stage. However, this translates to a good, not great, live show. They need to have more conviction in the way they play, because the songs and their ability to play the songs so well live deserves more attitude from them, more ego, more balls. They have so many of the ingredients needed to be great (I would compare them to Radiohead in many ways), if only they could find a way to shed their nerves, let loose and just enjoy themselves onstage they could easily be on the path to greatness.

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