I usually start these reviews with a humorous story as to how the journey to the gig went. I do this because sometimes a gig is worth more than just the show itself, your day changes when you go to any form of live music. I like to report on my night, and how everything that goes into that from the long bus ride into Manchester, and the struggle of finding my way home. However, I wake up this morning with a nosebleed and minimal memory, a few notes and a half written review I began before passing out. As this is going to be the longest review I’ve done, I’ll just get straight into it.
Sometime last year I saw the intriguing name Joey Mojito’s Them Sardines start to pop up as a regular support act for almost every gig I was going to. I must’ve seen them/him about three times. After the first time I saw Them Sardines I may have be one of few people that actually bought the Joey Mojito album on Bandcamp, 10pm Sunset, and cannot begin to express how jealous everyone should be, songs such I’m Your Man, have such a distinct swagger that are perfect for those cold, late night walks home with the wind in your hair.
The first time I encountered them was in the basement of the O2 Ritz in Manchester. The performance was two people singing in a Yorkshire karaoke to hazy dream pop/rock backing tracks, played from an IPod (Sleaford Mods take note). As there was only about five people in attendance, the two singers took their shirts off and walked around the room simply enquiring to each other, ‘Are you feeling sexy? Aha-Ha’. I know I was.
The next time I see Joey Mojito is supporting Fat White Family on their two-date Tour of Discipline, the first show in Sheffield’s Record Junkee, and the second at Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club. Different each time. The hometown Sheffield show saw Mr Mojito go solo. A lonely man in shiny pants still asking ‘Are you feeling sexy? Aha-Ha’. Yes, I still am. Then a week later at the Trades we’re back to a double act, however, the IPod is faulty, causing the sound engineer to sit on stage and hold the AUX wire in as to prevent feedback. Continuing the now tiresome, still funny, ‘Are you feeling sexy? Aha-Ha’.
Now, months later I discover a new EP by Them Sardines, and a support slot for International Teachers of Pop, in the Pink Room of YES. Therefore, I now have high expectations. The act is consistent, like a bad joke that gets funnier and funnier each time its told.
Tonight however was a very different story. Them Sardines had a change in line-up, gone was the apish blonde counter part to Mr Mojito, but in was a new oriental dragon clad synth operator. Thus attaining to being absurdly different each time. The group had gone for a more conventional setup however, playing songs from the new EP and no IPod in sight. In a way I was sad at the lack of IPod, Joey Mojito has upped production value and sold out. Even still, the beauty of Mr Mojito was retained, albeit with minimal ‘Aha-Ha’s and no mention of being sexy. In what ever form Them Sardines come, they will forever prove to be one of the best support groups ever.
Every time I’ve seen the Flanagan/Horner combo, they always have solid support groups (Goat Girl, PINS & Los Bitchos), and tonight Them Sardines delivered. Sadly however, the band All Girl Arson Club, failed to impress. Now I don’t think is down to the band themselves, but as usual, the booking order. Stylistically I feel Them Sardines should’ve followed All Girl Arson Club, then International Teachers of Pop take us away in the night. Given the indie pop setup of All Girl Arson Club, the change from the weird 80s Miami synthwave of Them Sardines felt jarring. However, I’ll end on a more positive note. One sentence to summarise the band themselves.
All Girl Arson Club; Cool hair, cool sound.
Now, onto the main act of the night, International Teachers of Pop. The International Teachers of Pop debut album is stunning. From beginning to end, it’s a non-stop party. The greatness of this album cannot be comprehended when you realise this is half of the group that released one of 2017’s best albums, Interplanetary Class Classics. Adrian Flanagan and Dean Horner seem to know how to make riotous music with ease. Every project they are involved with are uniquely different, always choosing the most suitable wordsmiths available. For example, Maxine Peake, Lias Saoudi and now Leonore Wheatley & Katie Mason. But, I’d like to make note of the one man who seems often outcast from any Flanagan/Horner creation, Rich Westley. Providing a pounding backbone to The Moonlandingz and now with International Teachers of Pop bringing nothing but pure disco mayhem. Westley is genuinely one of the best drummers I’ve seen, the sound he gets from the snare and the stomping rhythms he creates are immeasurable. This morning all I can think of is that opening drum line from On Repeat, forever locked in my faded memory.
International Teachers of Pop, as far as I can gather has only been an idea for a year and half tops. Since then they’ve played with Jarvis Cocker, numerous festival dates, released a stellar debut and put on one of the best gigs of I’ve ever attended (The White Hotel 27/10/18). Therefore my exceptions were unreasonably high. The gig at Salford’s White Hotel was unlike anything I’ve every attended. There were choreographed dancers ingrained in the audience and party poppers given to the audience ready to pull in unison, which become one of the best pyrotechnical gimmicks I’ve ever seen on such a tight budget.
Sadly, tonight there were no party poppers. However, the Love Troupe made a much welcomed return on stage for Love Girl. The band themselves are stunning, visually. I often found myself staring at the immaculate beauty of professor Horner’s beard. I was petrified at how Adrian ‘Sexeh’ Flanagan can be so ‘sexeh’, one hand on hip, the other doing a one finger dance thats as mesmerising as his eyes would be if they weren’t hidden by a pair of shades. Westley is pure concentration, never missing a beat. Making sure he can pass the teachers pop quiz. Then we have the dazzling Wheatley & Mason power couple. With dance moves that would make any Strictly audience recoil in horror, as they two people that can actually enjoy dancing.
One key song from the setlist that I remember from the Salford gig and last night was the song Lollipop, which I absolutely adored both times they played it. This begs the question, where is the studio recording of this song? It was omitted from the LP and still yet to be released. Other songs from the setlist where mostly from the album, however I found songs like She Walks and Oh Yosemite at times didn’t quite match up to the high energy of other points of the set. My personal highlights were After Dark, Another Brick in the Wall and Interstellar.
If you read this and you’re unaware of the lessons Flanagan/Horner are promoting then do yourself a favour and enrol onto a course of international pop classics. Where the only form of assessment is pleasure. Buy the LP. See them live. For a band in such infancy it’s overwhelming how ingenious they can be.