The Grates, The Young Knives

Thomas 21/10/2006

It's now Saturday night at Cardiff's favourite basement sweatbox and Patience, singer of Brisbane's The Grates, can hardly be accused of making no effort to dress up. Adorned in a hand-made, billowing white number that's half Moulin Rouge, half Bjork swan dress, the perma-grinning brunette has everyone's attention even before they've played a note.
The Grates' three piece setup and simple rock 'n' roll draw frequent comparisons with Be Your Own Pet and early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and these are proved fairly accurate both musically and in terms of the magnetic frontwoman factor. However, without either the sweat-drenched gonzoid punk of the former or the sexed-up, “just ripped my fishnets on my boyfriend's canvas, again” squealing of the latter, they're left only knocking at the door rather than truly caving it in.

Launching into strutting album opener 'Trampoline', Patience's constant bouncing and crowd interaction (swapping barking noises with the front row) mean the somewhat static John on guitar seems oddly peripheral, while Alana remains unshowy behind her kit. The Stooges rumble of 'Howl' and snappy pop of 'Lies Are Much More Fun' follow, before Patience does her “ribbon trick thing” for the sweet 'Rock Boys', the yellow fabric twirling under the changing lights reflecting the gentle thrum of the song's heartbeat. It's an utterly lovely moment and, all too brief, it casts a shadow over the rest of the set which, while fun to watch, shows they don't yet have the tunes that could grant them the step up to the big league.

The Young Knives meanwhile have had a good year, with album 'Voices of Animals and Men' appearing on the upper shelves of Woolworths, and their English geek chic, Eric n Ernie banter and entertaining lyrics go down well live. The big choruses of classically posed indie rock stories like 'Here Comes The Rumour Mill' and 'She's Attracted To' are also guaranteed crowd-pleasers, but not everything has quite the same effect. Songs like 'Another Hollow Line' are woefully thin tales and repetitive to boot, while that most daft-sounding of things, the 'sonic pallette', is dotted only with the same pale colours that match their tweed suits and silk ties. So while their best tunes go down as anticipated, it feels like a slightly underwhelming victory lap from the hot summer's big winners. And doesn't the bassist look like Ronnie Barker?