The Franklys + False Heads + The Pacers
Thursday 26th May
The Borderline, London
The evening of 26th May got off to an inauspicious start: Colin and I agreed to meet at the only pub in Oxford St, ideally situated less than 200 yards from the Borderline, but we couldn’t agree on its name. Was it the Tottenham? Or was it the Flying Horse? Or would we end up in two different pubs looking like a couple of Nobby Nomates? Well, it seems the pub used to be the Flying Horse but, several decades ago, was renamed the Tottenham - long enough ago for nobody to remember it was ever called the Flying Horse. Except Nicholsons, the owners, who last year decided to rename it again as, you’ve guessed it, the Flying Horse! All clear now? Despite the confusion, at least we ended up in the same pub and, after tarrying awhile for a few refreshing pints, we headed to the Borderline for another evening of live music.
First band on were the Pacers, a London based garage quartet, not to be confused with Pacer, a punk rock band also based in London, nor the US based Pacers, a ska band from Milwaukee! The Pacers had a distinctive sixties sound, with a strong psychedelic flavour. Most of their songs were fast and exciting, with compelling guitar riffs drawn from the likes of the Stooges, Nirvana and Pink Floyd. Typical examples were 'Hold On' and 'I’m Down', the B side of their recent single. Surprisingly, their set didn’t include the A side ('Losing Touch'), maybe because its slower, trippy sound may not have been well suited to the Borderline audience. The Pacers set provided a great start to the evening; it was a pity the audience was still building up and many latecomers missed them.
The Pacers were followed by False Heads, an alternative rock band with roots in East London. After personnel changes in 2014 and 2015 False Heads has now settled down as a three piece: Luke Griffiths (vocals and guitar), Jake Elliott (guitar) and Barney Nash (drums and vocals). Unusually, when on stage, drummer Barney Nash comes across as the most charismatic member of the band, disappearing in a blur of perpetual motion whilst also providing backing vocals in a manner that brings back memories of Keith Moon.
False Heads songs were built around uncompromising gargantuan jangly riffs. They are propulsive and energetic, with deep English melodies; their youthful imperiousness was reminiscent of early Pixies. The overall result is an alternative punk rock hybrid sound that has earned False Heads a loyal cult following, but is unlikely to break through to commercial success. One song that did show the pop sensibilities of the Buzzcocks was 'Steal and Cheat', their latest single. 'Steal and Cheat' has a slightly more upbeat garage punk vibe, with a large dose of hedonistic indie oikishness. Overall, False Heads gave us a frenetic live stage performance, boosted by their youthful determination and artistic grit.
After False Heads came the Franklys, the evening’s headliners. The Franklys bill themselves as “an all girl rock 'n' roll band based in London, 50% Swedish, 25% British, 25% American, 100% rock ’n’ roll.” The band comprises American drummer Nicole Pinto, local talent Zoe Biggs on bass and, up front, Swedish pair Jen Ahlkvist (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) with her bitter sweet and ever so edgy vocals, and Fanny Broberg (lead guitar). The overall result is an exciting explosion of raw, frenetic, sweaty energy: a solid, driving rhythm section fronted by double-barrelled screaming guitars and melodic guitar hooks, lending a rich variety to the styles and sounds that cascade off the stage.
Picking out individual songs for special mention is difficult, but 'Bad News' was a typically thunderous piece of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll, with rock hard riffs and powerful vocals, reminiscent of early Black Sabbath. 'Comedown', the band’s latest single, was a cautionary tale from the edge with a message of empowerment. The Franklys played it with an electrifying swagger and metallic crunch. 'You Go I Leave' started with a steady, rhythmic beat, soon complemented by a powerful guitar riff and strong, wailing vocals, building up to a creative crescendo. The girls were so obviously enjoying playing music they liked, how they liked it, that their attitude, enthusiasm and commitment inevitably rubbed off on the audience, who loved every minute.
Overall, the three bands all contributed to a loud, fun evening of rudimentary, raucous rock - highly enjoyable!
Pacers set list:
Part of the Scene
This time I know
Forget Everything You Know
Franklys set list:
What You Said
Some People Leave
You Go I Leave
'Big' Ian Cawthron