HARRY HOWARD and the NDE
+ THE HOLY SOUL
+ THE VIETNAM WAR
+ SCALE MODELS
The Old Bar, Fitzroy, Victoria
September 9, 2011
By ROBERT BROKENMOUTH
ShareWhen I was a wee scrawny scarecrow of a lad, I was earnestly told the one thing you never did was to share a house with a couple, because when they fought they'd bring the whole house down, man.
They do say that a band is a bit like a marriage, and we can all name famous examples of couples who've been in a band and who have either killed the band, their partner or themselves as a partial result.
So you could be forgiven for being a tad taken aback when you see not one but TWO couples mounting the modest stage at The Old Bar in Fitzroy. Both couples are umbilically linked to music, both create an artistic partnership greater than their couple, and, with Harry Howard and his NDE, we have numerically as well as musically, the beginnings of what could well be a superbly elegant behemoth.
But first an apology to Holy Soul, who I didn't see, but was later assured were bloody good. So buy their CDs and go and see them. The support bands were The Vietnam War and Scale Models. The Veedubs (as I'm afraid I thought of them) were very good, broadly and obviously nicking material from a particular era/area but still maintaining an original buzz about them. Go and see them, they're enjoyable. The singer looked like he was about to be shot at dawn, which is a pity as the songs have plenty of room for dancing in them.
The Airfix Kit (see bracket, above) were very C-86 Indie-influenced, reminded me of the Delta 5 (of all things), the trumpet shouldn't work but it does, and the twin guitar approach is very effective but - they use signature blasts of sound a bit too often for the spirit of the songs - on the other hand they could make their signature the entire sound. The first two bands tonight need work and to perform more often, maybe take more risks, but that's the point of seeing bands early; ever met someone who used to see INXS every week for two bucks? Anyway, back to the couples.
After seeing Ms Moore and Mr Graney live for over 30 fucking years, you'd think they'd have the common decency to look a bit older. Clearly they've made a deal with the devil 'cause not only are they still together they are a formidable rhythm section. Dave's bass is perfect, simple, powerful and to the point, eloquently nicking and reinterpreting bass-lines (I'm sure I heard the Stooges' 'Loose' in there, for example), slotting in marvellously with Clare's on-target drums. Just on Clare, by God she's scary, isn't she? Buckets of talent, a precision metronome interspersed with flashes of her secretive Keith Moon other self.
Harry and Edwina Preston are equally adept, feeding off each other's vibe. It's rather sweet, actually. But overall, there's so much going on in the songs that you're constantly being tricked, the punching drive of the rear couple not always matching the front couple, which highlights Harry's rather wonderful, painstakingly composed lyrics. In the sense that the songs take you on a journey, creating a feel for the subject matter, they're reminded me of Kraftwerk. Cross-pollinatorily, if you can't see shards of the Velvet Underground and the Pebbles albums as well it's time to have your ears syringed.
Harry's disarming stage presence is reassuring, we know he doesn't take himself too seriously, even though he does (if that makes sense). His songs make you laugh sometimes, sometimes laugh with joy, and others you frankly want to rush, giggling, to the front of the stage and squirt him with the fire extinguisher. At the moment, Harry Howard and his NDE are a wonderful pop band - there's at least four potential singles in the set - and if you're not seeing them regularly you are simply missing out.
It never ceases to amaze me how many fantastic, talented and fun bands there are at the moment, and that so few people are willing to pay less than the cost of a round of drinks to see them. Surely music and musicians have become devalued over the last 20 years. I don't know what the majors are looking at these days, but HHNDE is retro without being hokey, and will last; they're tuff without being cliched; fun and approachable with out that disposability that so much pop has.
Don't just go along to see Harry Howard and his NDE. Hire them yourselves, insist they wear red satin and gold lame, drink fizzy red cordial, put a bucket on your head and dance til you puke. You can catch it in the bucket (if you're lucky).