This band never really hit the heights that their glitzy indie-pop deserved. Instead they resided beneath the radar, shuffling uncomfortably between Brit-pop and 90s melodrama. But as a soundtrack to my youth – I followed them from Nottingham, to Derby, to Sheffield and Manchester in the same month in the mid-to-late 90s – I was excited to see them again. Sadly, my excitement was not matched by the people of Nottingham who stayed away in their masses. Their loss.
Date: November 20, 2015
Venue: Rescue Rooms
The NME cited My Life Story as one of the greatest lost bands of the 90s and they’re spot on, because MLS were always sort of there or thereabouts whilst the Britpop scene swelled and then imploded around them.
Their orchestral pop didn’t really find its own genre to snuggle into. But who cares about genres when they possess songs like their glitzy opener Sparkle? It sounds immense, even if their classical sass and sultry strings have been replaced by a keyboard.
Ringleader Jake Shillingford is resplendent in a blue suit and white shoes. He’s an affable guy in a risible mood, telling witty (and filthy) tales to his small but captive audience.
Once a 12-piece, they’re now a 5-piece, and while the Casio does a decent job of filling the orchestral void, it’s no trumpet, and on the promiscuous thrash pop of Strumpet, the crowd deliver the brassy pap-pap-pahs. It’s like a Blur classic getting drunk and frolicking with The Divine Comedy and despite the Casio remake, it’s still excellent.
Less excellent is Empire Line. It’s all over the place. It’s time structure is quite simply maladjusted. “The band are still half asleep”, Jake admits.
Mid-set, he dips into his side project, ExileInside, including the poetic acoustic ramble, I Never Smile Because I’m Too Busy Laughing.
But back to MLS and the chivalrous Mr Boyd is a major league singalong, a slow waltz perfect for waving hands, while new track 24-hour Deflowerer hints at a more punk-influenced direction, although old b-side Emerald Green also sounds like Graham Coxon in punk mode. “B-sides are for the proper fans”, Jake jokes. And it’s those proper fans that have turned out tonight.
“Shall we have a massive harpsichord solo?”, he teases, prior to 12 Reasons Why’s uber-pomp. It ends the gig remarkably.
Intimate and engaging, MLS still struggle to fit into a particular genre, but why conform when wit and pop-punk will do nicely thank you?