Neo / The Virgin Suicides / Sift, The Portland Arms, Cambridge, 11.7.02.


This was billed as the re-launch of our Fuck The Jubilee single, now suitably retitled "Fuck The Monarchy", this time with lovely limited
edition coloured vinyl single actually in attendance. Fears that without guests Miss Black America from the last launch the audience would be
depleted were soon revealed to be unfounded, as the place was quickly heaving with people from as far as Norwich and Austria. (60 Austrian
language students were brought by their teacher to experience a typical British night out!!!)
Sift went down well with our Austrian friends; they are fantastic musicians, they are tight and enthusiastic and manage to fit into "emo-indie-metal" categories all at once. However they still lack that spark that would mark that out as an essential band; yes the guitar solos are
impressive, but without fulfilling any purpose within the songs they can become tedious in the extreme. I've never worshipped at the altar of
mindless musicianship!
By the time The Virgin Suicides took to the stage the place was heaving and I was quite edgy as a misplaced e-mail had brought all sorts of threats from other local bands down on the heads of our young heroes: "we're gonna beat you up" was how the intelligent banter began, later to be replaced with "we'll see you in the sound booth".
As indeed they did. Luckily, the sound booth is the last place The Virgin Suicides worry about, their set is one consisting of energy, bile,
intelligence, taunts, eyeliner, guitars destruction and songs to die for. Even in the searing height of a packed and nervous Portland Arms, the audience, never daring to stand too close to the stage, were left bemused and annoyed in equal measure: The Virgin Suicides were clearly something special. As the set ended with Dickon trashing his guitar and knocking the microphone over, causing the venue to be plunged into fantastic chaotic darkness and leaving the band as haunted silhouettes, I realised that some Austrian kids would be going home changed for ever.

Virgin Suicides

And then Neo. What more can I say? It's so unfair that this band aren't headlining Reading. They have rumbling bass, intelligent lyrics, an intense stage presence, hooks aplenty and, from tonight, a second guitar player. I must admit I was dubious about this idea but see it and believe - it totally makes sense. The sound is more powerful, the vocals are more central, the whole experience is more unsettling, more intense, more Neo. The single "Die In America" sounded brilliant and the new songs are even more exciting, so much so that they even put the fantastic punk-pop cover of "I Don't Like Mondays" in the shade. It's time for someone to take Neo in hand and get them they respect they deserve.
So at 11pm the venue spewed forth a crowd of hot but happy punk kids, plus Austrian visitors. The only ones who were unhappy were the local
indie mafia who'd slunk off early.