Six By Seven, Amusement Parks On Fire, Cherubs

Alex Worsnip 01/06/2004

It's been sad to see Six By Seven fall from grace somewhat. Not that they ever achieved dizzying heights to fall from - but their blad-clad indie-noise-rock has fallen out of step with fashion, resulting in their being dropped from previous record label Mantra. Nevertheless, they've soldiered on, and now signed to Fierce Panda, their 4th album is ready for release in the next couple of months. A decent crowd turns out for them at the ICA, although between the support bands and the main act half the audience seems to leave, being replaced by a new audience that comes in just for Six By Seven.

Perhaps this is because the support bands are undeniably more trendy. Thrillingly, this does translate into their being good. First support band The Cherubs play 80's-influenced dancable indie-rock akin to Stellastarr* and The Killers, and at times, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol or The Rapture. You might think this line of bands was getting tired by now, but The Cherubs manage to make an equally enjoyable sound, pulling these various bands into a synthesis on various tracks. Their dangerously thin singer hangs off the microphone and dances manicly like a young Mark E Smith. Forthcoming debut single "Hey Buddy" is dementedly delivered on top of a funky beat, while other tracks are a little more complex - but they continue to pull style and tunes out of the bag on a relatively eclectic set. Signed to Cargo records, they should do well - look out for them.

Amusement Parks on Fire are a rather different proposition. Hailing from Six By Seven's native Nottingham, they are more akin to the main band, though strikingly different. Heavily influenced by My Bloody Valentine, they play a sound that is like post-rock with more urgency and energy, and less noodling. Nevertheless when they lash into their swathes of guitar noise it is overwhelmingly powerful, like early Mogwai except more so. It is not all instrumental, though vocals are somewhat rare - when the vocals do come in they add relatively little, except suggesting a slight hardcore edge in their style, which actually, thinking about it, rather appears in the music also. The use of cracked samples is a little cliched but effective, and their feedback on top of this continues for about two minutes after they leave the stage.

Six By Seven themselves draw in a slightly different crowd, full of black-clad, late 20s men who don't move much, don't smile much and don't say much - a bit like them. Nevertheless their crowd is devoted, and one or two know all the words to every song - some of them people you wouldn't expect. The crowd has about 1 girl for every 4 boys, but it is a measure of how much their music appeals more to men that Chris Olley comments later, in a rare moment of crowd interaction, "Nice to see some girls here, too, for a change". This gig clearly means something to Six By Seven: they have a point to prove. They damn well prove it.

Live, you realise that Six By Seven are genuinely unique. The power of the songs live, unconstrained by the underproduction that dogged their first two records, makes you realise that no-one else plays their exact blend of doomy, atmospheric, building rock. They play material from all four albums, picking a rather slow set that unfortunately leaves out the likes of the blistering "Speed Is In/Speed Is Out", but is an excellent set anyway - the only disadvantage being that it gets a little monotonous at times with no different songs to temper the mood - to a newcomer to the band it might seem somewhat repetitive. On the flipside, though, it does give the band a strikingly unique live mood that breaks out of "indie-rock" into their own, magnificently dark, heavy, powerful genre.

"European Me" is on particularly great form, building to its climax perfectly, and screaming perfectly when it arrives their. They create amazing power for a (now) 3-piece (though admittedly some extra parts are pre-recorded), shaking the floor even on quieter record songs like "IOU Love", also magnificient tonight. The vicious "Cafeteria Rats" snarls with true venom: Chris Olley plays like his life depends on it (and frankly, it does - well, at least, his career does). If you shut your eyes during any of Six By Seven's set, the passion at the heart of the repeated, atmospheric chords, brilliantly interplayed between keyboards and guitars, both giving the sound real depth and intensity. New material takes a strikingly new direction: slightly more experimental, full of synth sweeps and burbles, rather than the hammond chords of old. "Ocean" rides on a magnificently memorable, slightly oriental keyboard loop, while first single "Bochum" on a truly beautiful chord progression and almost balearic drumming that, with the keyboards, gives an air of noisy euphoria.

Final track "Always Waiting For..." is playing so magnificicently that Olley and his drummer exchange genuine smiles, a truly rare thing for this stoic band. They go off, and the venue - either because they felt the set had been too long, or because they just didn't know what they were doing - brought the lights up, prompting half the audience to leave, with a devoted hardcore clapping at the front for the encore that the band have played at the more popular dates on this tour. Eventually they re-emerge, permitted "only one more", which highly irritatingly means that the divine 'Another Love Song' has to be struck off the setlist. They more than make up for this, though, taunting the venue with a 10-minute version of "Candlelight", normally a short, poppy, baggy single reminiscent of the Stone Roses - here a speeded-up, dense monster that launches into guitar abuse for the last 5-minutes, to the delight of the loyal crowd. It's a magnificent closer, and Six By Seven truly are a fantastic live band - genuinely more powerful than on record, and genuinely exciting.