By Nick Pierce
Photo: S I D N E Y
It might be lazy to compare South London’s S.C.U.M to The Horrors, but often cliché originates in certain home truths. With their brand of synthy neo-psychedelia, the quintet’s sound draws clear parallels with the current darlings of the British indie music scene. Unfortunately, it sounded better the first time around. Hearing them headline at Tuesday night’s gig at The Green Door Store, and trying in vain to distinguish one impossibly overblown anthem from the next, it quickly became apparent that S.C.U.M are as of yet lacking the killer tunes any such act requires to make it big.
Perhaps more worryingly, they seem to share the lacklustre stage presence often levelled as a criticism at their aforementioned peers. Although the musicians seemed well-rehearsed, their performance felt mechanical. If one thinks of the acts from the past who’ve had success at mixing emotion with post-punk sounds, most notably Joy Division, they’ve always sought to invest their live shows with a dimension of self-revelation bordering on performance art. S.C.U.M, on the other hand, felt detached throughout from the music they were making, as if covering another artist’s songs.
Thomas Cohen, lead singer and fiancé of socialite Peaches Geldof, also comes across as overly mannered live. Gesturing regally and gazing off into the distance like a poor man’s hybrid of Jim Morrison and Nick Cave, he presumably meant to hammer home the music’s ethereal quality. Sadly, hammering the ethereal is somewhat of a contradiction in terms.
By comparison, the warm-up act Bo Ningen were something close to remarkable. Hailing from Japan and based in London, they melded the unholy racket of punk rock with 70s avant-garde acts like Can. Culminating their set with an extended jam, guitars and drums crashing against one another in a maelstrom somewhere between funk and white noise, they laid down a formidable gauntlet for S.C.U.M and ultimately stole the gig out from under their noses. Score that as a victory for the underdogs.