Rubber Soul Presents...

Pure + Henry’s Phonograph + Numidian Wish - The Opera House - January 2006

by Sam Goodman

Rubber Soul, for those of you not from Bucket&Spadesville, is one of Bournemouth’s longest standing and eclectic live music nights; week after week you’ll find organisers/soundmen/promoters/etc. Conrad Barr and Paul Tucker slaving away, all for the benefit of the bands and the local 'scene'. Tonight is the 250th Rubber Soul anniversary and the bill put together has been done so with a celebration in mind. Originally down to play were the peerless Old Psychiatrist’s Club but, due to an unforeseen skiing injury (seriously, s’no joke), they have been replaced at very short notice by tonight’s opening act, Numidian Wish. Taking the stage in an unassuming, low-key way, the female fronted five-piece glide gently into their first number. Light acoustic strumming and beautiful, crisp vocals. The next song continues the dreamy atmospherics and male/female vocal interplay. But Numidian Wish can do aggressive too, as they prove with a bit of agit-indie that showcases singer Elises’ harsher, more powerful tones. Given her complaints of a sore throat, she should be advertising for Benylin on the strength of this performance. She is undeniably their star but this is, unfortunately, their weakness. All the songs aired tonight hinge on the vocals, which only serves to make the music second place and somewhat dull. Then again, I get the feeling that Numidian Wish are not, nor have ever been, about complicated structure or flashy musicianship. They seem content instead to remain prettily melodic and inoffensive. Henry’s Phonograph are a much more interesting prospect and grab everyone’s attention the instant they take the stage. Not least as a result of their singer’s suit, scarf and Luftwaffe style boots. With their spoken-word delivery, shuffling rhythms and multi-instrumentalism, they certainly make an impression. I just can’t shake the thought that it’s at the expense of the actual tunes. As their set continues, this becomes all the more apparent. Musically, HP have the ability to be revelatory but there’s no escaping the fact that their front man can’t sing. Coupled with the fact he seems to have mistaken arrogance for intrigue, it all puts a serious dampener on proceedings. There are some unexpected and affecting moments in their set, with a particularly creative use of keyboards, but despite the impressive inventiveness, their impassiveness is off-putting. For fans of extended, trippy, indie foppery (and in no way is that derogatory) this will be solid gold. Tonight, however, it left me cold. Finishing the show are long standing, Bournemouth band Pure. From the opening chords there is a noticeable change in scale. Pure are epic compared to what has preceded them. With their very late 90s feel, they sound like they’re aiming for bigger stages than this one. The opening song builds in intensity with no vocals for the best part of 5-10 minutes. This lends to an almost prog-rock quality, often unheard of in so-called 'fashionable' music scenes. But Pure either pay no attention to, or are oblivious to, fashions. This is a band who are playing what they want purely for the love of it. They appear very professional - swapping instruments and trading harmonies whilst remaining as tight as a whale-bone corset. Though the jangling guitars and stadium choruses are very U2, thankfully Pure do it without Bono’s pretentiousness and keep up a healthy crowd interest throughout. It wouldn’t be the same without the obligatory concluding cover song, this is a celebration after all. Three words: Ace. Of. Spades. Yes, I know what you’re thinking but, perversely, inexplicably even, it works. It’s a great play against type and closes the night with style. All in all, tonight was a good ‘un; absolute bargain entry (£2), promoters who care about the show they are hosting and three bands varied enough to have something for everyone. Despite its deplorable status as "new club capital of the South”, there’s a wealth of hidden talent in Bournemouth. And it's showcased every week at nights like these - that deserve a bigger audience. Use or lose it, Bournemouth!