Thursday, May 28, 2009
Mika Miko & Black Lips: Classic Grand, Glasgow, Saturday May 23
It's tempting to mythologise Mika Miko, portray them as the super-cool LA girl band from some imaginary '80s teen movie. And certainly, they're perfectly happy to humour such notions, asking us if we've seen Valley Girl, starring a young Nicolas Cage. I haven't, but then it wasn't a big hit over here, despite having a ridiculously awesome soundtrack, including Sparks' 'Eaten By The Monster of Love' and Josie Cotton's 'Johnny Are You Queer'. Truth be told, though, Mika Miko have more in common with California punk and rrriot girl than the poppy New Wave. Having last seen them two years ago in a Glasgow basement bar, I wasn't sure how their energetic punk show would translate to the larger, and altogether more plush, Classic Grand. Not to worry: these chicas shred it. Jennifer Clavin and Jenna Thornhill's vocals strike the perfect balance between dead-eyed punk yow and hyperactive teen yelp, finding a tone that's simultaneously knowing and party righteous. An underrated guitarist, Michelle Suarez spikes her power chords with angular Wipers riffs and mutant rockabilly X licks, while the rhythm section drives it all forward with an infectious groove. The slam-dancing bozos down the front don't quite it, but Mika Miko make punk rock to dance to. Clavin and Thornhill have some good moves: twisting on one foot and flapping their arms like Ari Up doing the funky chicken, and a hybrid hop-skip that's both charming and so utterly right. Towards the end, Thornhill whips out a sax for some Lora Logic skronk action, and me, I couldn't be happier. My only question: what happened to the telephone mic?
After all this Black Lips prove to be rather charmless. Their joyless simulacrum of '60s garage and '90s grunge makes you want to hit them over the head with the Nuggets boxset, or better still, a Billy Childish album. This is how it's done, bozos: catchy riffs, barely contained sexual tension, biting lyrics and infectious beats. Black Lips bludgeon when they should swing, plod when they should stomp. The atmosphere turns slightly unpleasant when bassist Jared Swilley stares out a stage jumper. “One of us is gonna get hurt and it's not gonna be me,” he whines while giving the over-excited punter the evil eye. What humourless, macho nonsense. Get me outta here!