“Don’t try to make a record that’s fashionable – by the time it’s finished it won’t be fashionable any more. Be yourself.” – Placebo singer Brian Molko, in conversation with Matt Everitt at Brighton’s Pavilion Theatre, Thu 10 May 2012
It must be hard, when seeking ideas, for a band not to look around them and start making music that in some way fits in with whatever else is being created in their vicinity. The temptation to chase the zeitgeist must be overwhelming for career-minded acts, but the more adventurous strike out on their own – and a further subsection of wilful weirdos go so far as to create their own unique ecosystem in which they can operate freely.
And what worlds they are! Here are three we’ve encountered at this year’s Great Escape festival.
The parallel world: a universe in which Cold Cave replace Coldplay, Rage Against The Machine are superseded by When Saints Go Machine, and KMFDM are worshipped by teens like NKOTB.
The result: sublime, commanding, dark-as-tar electrogoth – it’s perhaps unsurprising that Trust’s drummer also thwacks skins for Austra. Their brutally minimalist stage set-up belies the brain-rearranging nature of their schtick, best enjoyed in a sticky-floored basement with sweat dripping from the ceiling.
The parallel world: a universe in which Malcolm McLaren masterminds Girls Aloud’s career, Polysics expand on their epic ‘My Sharona’ cover with reinterpretations of the complete works of ELO, and eYe from Boredoms owns Clear Channel.
The result: three yelping female Japanese acrobats in paint-daubed bodysuits play-fight, pull faces, bark orders at the audience – “PINKIES!!!” – point and occasionally even sing while three lumbering men of uncertain origin bash 11 shades of excrement out of their instruments. It’s fucking spectacular to watch, although the Nippples may be less fun if you’re not standing in front of them.
The parallel world: a universe in which The Cure’s neglected 1984 album The Top is as iconic as Disintegration, and Blur never got around to all that knees-up-Muvver-Braahn/woo-hoo stuff and instead became every bit as successful by sticking to the playful ¾-time Vaudeville instrumentals and interludes that pepper the Life trilogy.
The result: a Kiwi singer who looks like a cartoon Winona Ryder and sounds like Kristen Schaal, trilling xylophone-led nursery rhymes about the perils of smoking, banana-chomping monkeys and “robots that take over the world and destroy everyone”. As deadpan and bizarre as Pee-Wee Herman, as self-consciously kooky as They Might Be Giants, Princess Chelsea would be Jess from New Girl’s absolute favouritest band if she didn’t already love She & Him, obviously. Too happy not to have a closet full of skeletons, in short.