Citizens! – London – Live review

XOYO, London
20 November 2012

Live review

“The Citizens Band are a US based political cabaret band. The band is made up of different rotating cast members and often includes celebrities in their shows”….yeah..ok…..

(However) Citizens! – (with the exclamation mark) are an English (indie) pop group who sound like Abba would sound like if they were still around today. But without the ladies. Or the beards. And younger. And they’re not Swedish.

They have drums that make your feet tap a bit like that Frankie from Hollywood who used to be in that band who’s name I can’t remember who had a big moustache like Citizens! drummer is sporting this evening, which at a guess is probably about 20 days old (and all for a good cause eh?)

They throw bleeps and beats that Depeche Mode should be making in 2012 but haven’t done so since Vince Clarke buggered off back in 1981. They’re also a lot like Sparks and a bit like Hot Chip and a little like all those New Romantic bands that history has not been very kind about.

There was a reason why we sometimes went to see those bands in the ’80s that we’re all far too cool to admit we all liked 30 years later – you know ’em…with their man lipstick, silk scarves and baggy clothes in those expensive night clubs where men with Exploited logos painted on their jackets danced to plinky plinky pop music – made by men dressed as women and women….well there weren’t any women.

The New Romantic scene that I witnessed back in deepest Essex didn’t have any women in the bands except the Thompson Twins and The Cocteau Twins. But they weren’t new romantic bands,and they never came to Essex.

Anyway,despite what it all looked like, it sounded great. It wasn’t as serious as history would now like us to believe and if it was…well, it was actually a bit like when we go out today and watch bands that play pop music. Proper pop music. Like ABBA pop music, and Bowie pop music …and Sparks pop music…and Franz Ferdinand pop music…but not Spandau Ballet. They sucked. Except “True” – that was nice. They (Spandau Ballet) looked shit (didn’t they?) in their outfits pulled from their sister’s dressing up boxes but weren’t really down with the kids because they were actually on Top of the Pops which any young people out there may be interested to know was a music show that was broadcast every Thursday evening by the BBC, highlighting some of the top tunes of the day. It was shit and we moaned about it like people moan about X Factor, and Spandau were part of all that and they wore big girls blouses which said NOTHING about us crazy kids in our UK Subs t-shirts who wanted the best of both worlds.

Citizens! aren’t a new romantic band though. Ignore all of that.

How things have changed in 30 years eh? – I bet Depeche Mode and their ilk never invited their Dad’s to the gigs back then…or their Mums. Someone’s MUM introduced me to Citizens! Tom Burke back in the Summer at Reading festival in a way that you would expect mums to do when they’ve just been told by someone like me that you thought Citizens! had been great that afternoon.

In a twist of fate I walk into one of Shoreditch’s local pubs before tonight’s show and who’s sitting in between two TV’s showing two different Football matches? (both 2-0 when I looked) but Master Burke, full time singer and ignorer of anything football related….and I realise I should buy a new hat… We share a beer. Well not exactly “share” because he didn’t want one, he had a gig to do and I didn’t have any straws.

Whilst he’s been swanning around the world the past three months playing shows at an alarming rate I’ve been sat on my fat arse eating chips and watching people in pubs watching people in bands and listening to people in pubs arguing about the football, X Factor and why you need a penis to be a Bishop or eat a camels’ one to be in government. This is why he is a POP STAR and I’m not – We discuss the brilliant video of “True Romance” and Tom explains how the bit on the high rise was done (I won’t spoil it for you and anyway I’m here to review the gig – no one said anything about doing an interview…) and what their plans are for the rest of the year ? They’re off to INDONESIA whilst I’ll be ….well probably in the Camden Barfly again moaning about the beer (again).

My plus one arrives, his dad arrives and next time I see him he’s up there with his top button done up tight to his neck and still wearing sensible clothes, singing sensible songs about love and stuff whilst still looking cool. I keep wanting to describe him as being as flamboyant as a Friendly Fires singer,which I think is a compliment. When I mentioned this to him he cringed in a way that lead me to think it wasn’t the first time anyone had said this.

To complete perfection his band mates are sensibly wearing their guitars at the correct length (none of that chest high bass playing bollocks). Tonight he’s dancing in front of (and at times amongst) a Sold out crowd, singing songs called “Caroline” and “Reptile” and the brilliant “True Romance”. I realise as I’d mentioned to him earlier that I feel I’ve been really missing out on their early career even though people had been throwing their music my way for the best part of a year now. I’d only got to see them for the first time at The Standon Calling festival where only about 20 people (Including “Big Jeff”) grooved our funky arses off to them last summer whilst we should have been sat at home watching the Olympics like everyone else. I seemed to recognise almost all of their songs.

Half way through the evening they throw in a crafty cover version and we scratch our heads wondering where we’ve heard this song before. We start guessing but discover by the use of today’s technology that it’s an old song by Everything But the Girl.

Citizens! – London – Live review

Back in the 80’s we’d be going outside to argue this out with our fists on the pavement but today…thanks to the use of a Blackberry we now have every bit of important information that we ever need to prevent getting the police involved in such disagreements (assuming that it is an “Everything But the Girl” song and not “SADE” – DAMN!!! I didn’t check ! I wasn’t actually shown the answer so I might have been lied to).

They don’t actually sound retro though. The Alex Kaprianos (Franz Ferdinand) produced debut album which came out this year sorts that out on CD and XOYO seems just about right for this. Not too big,not too small,some nice twinkling lights and an East London crowd here to see the band and not just hanging around waiting for the disco to start.

One does feel that this is a band that will surely just go from strength to strength in months to come. One more album of POP classics and you’ll all be sold on this I reckon (sorry guys it’s a tough old world out there)

For a band that have had me whistling one of their intro’s ALL WEEK (True Romance) and seriously considering buying a piano so I can learn how to play that intro (I’m sure I’ll only need one finger) they’ve certainly sold themselves to me (and saved me £3.50 for that pint he didn’t want)

I can’t wait to see them at 3 o’clock in the morning in one of those festival marquees in a year or so.

Citizens! – you were great. Power to the people!

All words and images by Keith Goldhanger. You can read more from Keith on LTW here.

Previous articleTracey Thorn: Tinsel and Lights – album review
Next articleThe Fall: Glasgow Arches Arts Centre – live review
Keith Goldhanger -- Spent the '90s as a frontman with London noise merchants HEADBUTT - spent the '80s in 'Peel favourites' BASTARD KESTREL. Spent a few years mashing up tunes and remixing bands as HIDEOUS WHEEL INVENTION. Is often out and about getting in the way of things and bumping his head on low ceilings - Will give your band the time of day but will dislike any band that balances full pints of alcohol on the top of guitar amps (Not keen on lead singers that wear hats either).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here