“True love is being able to still be in love with them when they’re urinating in front of you” proclaims Darwin Smith to the crowd of buttoned up shirts and skinny jeans crammed into Academy 2 on a cold pre-Valentines night .Urban outfitters don’t do gigs but if they did you get the feeling this wouldn’t be far off.
Darwin has a strong record of quality support bands. Last year they were supported by Rams Pocket Radio and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs! And they choose wisely again with Los Angeles based Electric Guest. They’ve got soul, some funky bass lines and a lead singer (brother of Jorma from The Lonely Island) pulling some ‘so in the music’ shapes with the swagger and confidence of someone born to perform but most important it’s catchy- so very catchy.
The highlight of their set is a certain twinkling piano led track entitled ‘This Head I Hold’ .Falsetto vocals meet a fun toe tapping 60’s grove which wouldn’t sound out of place at the height of Motown but all encased in an indie pop wrapping – no wonder it’s already got over a million YouTube views. It’s not a song you can listen to just once -or twice- for that matter.
Those expecting the catchy pop-rock tunes to continue may have been in for a bit of a shock though, as Darwin’s set starts more like something from Frank Zappa or even The Hendricks Experience (Through a squint his pencil mustache and curly hair/headband combo could induce something akin to resemblance to the late psychedelic guitarist) The acid dripping solo on Moonlit lasts the majority of the first 15 minutes of the set.
Soon enough the gig starts to take traditional format of a Darwin concert – Quirky pop hits interspersed by synchronized dance routines. The aforementioned has become a specialism of Darwin’s live performances. Pumped up by a glorious Bollywood meets S-club 7 routine set to the sound of Toto (yes you read that right), they storm through DNA, Suicide Song , Up In The Clouds and a surprisingly haunting rendition of brake up tune, Bedspace, and soon enough the room is dancing too.
Free (The Editorial Me) , the single from their latest record , gets by far the strongest reception of the new tracks and wouldn’t’t sound out of place in a In-rainbows era Radiohead record with its ‘reject society’ lyrics and garage rock-esque chorus.
Early single, Radar Detector, keeps up the dance-y atmosphere but, unfortunately, new tracks continue to be met by rather subdued receptions. Although this is rather inevitable only 2 days after the release of Songs For Imaginative People, it does tend to kill the mood somewhat.
This is no more evident than on the encore. Constellations and sing along anthem, Bad Day, get the room screaming “Everyday ought to be bad day for youuuu” through massive grins, but soon these grins turn to polite smiles as album opener, 800 Human, drifts over collective heads – Maybe there just isn’t a abundance of ‘Imaginative People’ out on a Birmingham Wednesday night?