Thursday 11th September 2008
The ancient Greeks thought that if you took the head of this, the legs of something different and the hind quarters of that thing over there you could make up a new beast. And that beast would be a viable creature. The final product – the chimera – a single organism with genetically different sub-cells is what I was observing tonight. The other thing I was thinking about was Mister David Byrne’s ‘Talking Heads’ whose 80’s band played everything from punk rock through funk and glam to world/folk music. And the band consisted of eleventeen different constituent members not always necessarily including ‘The Head’ of Mr.Byrne. It was a chimeric band.
Tonight I was at The Hob, Staines, to see Johnny B’s chimeric band, called ‘Demure’. Johnny B is the ‘David Byrne-esqe’ head of this particular creature (more of him in a moment) and he is given life and locomotion by a youthful and clean cut Philip Price, wearing a green sesame street T-shirt, on lead guitar. To his left, on bass, is Chris Caller, (looking to all intents-and-purposes like an innocent church chorister dressed up as a hugger-mugger) and on the hind-quarters is Neil ‘Stix’ Rawles on drums. (Neil appears to be slightly- erm- ‘Dutch’ looking.) With blondish long hair, bits of blondish beardy stuff poking out of his chin and wearing a scruffy alice band. If I had looked more closely I would not have been surprised to see clogs on his pedals. Someone behind me remarked that the drummer wouldn’t have looked out of place in a hairy hippie type band like ‘The Flower Kings’ and I know what they mean.
John is the lead voice and rhythm guitar of this outfit and looks like a slightly podgy (and I mean that in a beautiful more ‘cuddly ‘way) and a slightly shorter version of Sacha Baron Cohen but with loads more black hair and lots more charm. Almost a smaller, more rounded, softer version of Baron Cohen then. The band plays Alt- Rock in the conventional sense but with overtures towards noise rock, especially in the way that the percussion and the bass are given the freedom to spread out their wings and have dissonant aural adventures of their own, but framed within the main architecture of each song. This reminded me of ‘Sonic Youth’ or ‘Butthole Surfers’.
Demure songs have an individual charm and a hummable charisma that speaks of anguish, truth, unity and vulnerability- in fact all of the themes that the Staines crowd shared some harmony with. These bitter-sweet melodies are given lush and sonically-ambitious backdrops by the crew and especially by Philip Price whose tones and strings are very memorable and are the sign and seal of a genuinely unique product. The song ‘1 Vision’ is very reminiscent of Pearl Jam with grungy guitar, contrasting song dynamics, a pulsating and luminous lead meandering through the tune and anguished lyrical and vocal content leading to dynamic conclusions. The song also reminds the listener of ‘Soundgarden’ but would be welcomed by the more ‘emo’ types amongst us, and above all, by anyone with a liking for early emo e.g. ‘Embrace’or ‘Rites of Spring’. ‘Designer Me’ has very sub-pop sound familiar to ‘Soundgarden’ fans and my friend remarked that he could definitely hear “Black Hole Sun” in there somewhere.
Not that the band is at all unhappy. I want to make that very clear! Front man John is an energetic and genuinely enjoyable performer to watch and his vocals are resonant and passionate – even theatrical at times. In that respect he is a very similar vocalist to Eddie Vedder. With brooding baritone sounds (when the mood button is turned on,) reaching pulsating highs. Unlike Ed Vedder though, Johnny is also responsible for the guitar arrangements for the ensemble, so sings with the guitar ready to be launched from either side on his return, kept ready for a rhythm blitz, but to be put neatly to one side for any dramatic lyrical moments.
Happiest and most chirpy of all is Philip who grins and gurns his way through each song with some deft fretwork, his face illuminated by a cheeky grin and a wink to the audience. Bass-player ‘Caller’ (the choirboy) is relaxed and coo-ool. He tends to lead each song, working closely with the percussionist Neil, who is given plenty of room for his own artistic freedom and, I think, is technically a very clever player with an ear for detail and with a capacity to produce explosive but, nonetheless reliable, drum patterns.
This emotional, sensitive and, perhaps, timid band is a joy to listen to and watch. They have crafted some articulate numbers that give them, and their enlightened audience, a chance of freedom and the ability to ‘jump out of stream’ without spilling their guts on the jaggedy rocks below. You do not leave a Demure concert with shattered eardrums. There are no rage-filled concert rooms or any latent desire to smash up the drum kit when you witness this band. And for this they should be thanked, appreciated and honored.
Demure means down-playing one’s accomplishments and this band has a lot to be proud of. ‘Demure’ has many virtues, skills and abilities but it doesn’t go round town shouting its mouth off about it. It is rare, these days- any days- to find a band with as much humility as this lot and it is a tribute to each and every one of them that they are so professional, so effective and – gosh – so damned likeable!
We wish this chimeric local band every success.
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