Wednesday 21 September 2011

Jonny Cola and the A-Grades

Jonny Cola and the A-Grades
Cambridge Corner House, September 21st 2011

Despite various politicians, journalists and local residents stating that they’d seen the August riots coming, no-one has yet had the nerve to point the finger at Jonny Cola and the A-Grades, specifically their EP released in June and its tracks ‘Postcode Wars’ (with accompanying video inspired by gang warfare classic ‘The Warriors’) and ‘Summer Of Hate’. Perhaps this is for the best and has allowed the London-based five-piece to continue their quest for glam-pop perfection without having to deal with a Richard Littlejohn-inspired uprising of the ill-informed.

A series of ad hoc out-of-town shows (a ‘tourette’ if you will) brings them first to Cambridge. Unfortunately the short-notice booking and an absence of local promotion means that Cambridge hasn’t been brought to them, something which could easily lead to a lesser band haughtily decrying their provincial surroundings before putting in a lazy performance. Thankfully this is not the way of Jonny Cola and the A-Grades, who approach the gig as though they’re playing a sold-out o2 arena and make their intentions clear as they kick off proceedings with the afore-mentioned 'Summer Of Hate' and then immediately into forthcoming single ‘Halo’.

An attempt to derail the band's enthusiasm duly arrives, seemingly without irony, during 'The Party's Over', as the soundman forgets to open up the channel for the keyboard. Apparently a common occurrence, which maybe contributes to the ease with which Jonny, finding himself cut adrift without any musical back-up, adapts the lyrics to make his feelings very apparent. The song’s extremely dirty riff returns to fill the void as the band admirably take this incompetence in their stride.

If you were to use the Ronson ratio (the glam-pop industry standard) to judge Jonny Cola and the A-Grades it would be 70:30 Mick: Mark. The latter at times reunites with a hint of Bowie, and the pop side is also represented by occasional flashes of Blur’s more art-school moments. At times this mix reminds of David Devant & His Spirit Wife (but without the carrot grating).

The different sides of the band’s repertoire are no better showcased than the initially sparse and introspective ‘Alpha Male’, which gives way to the stadium-rock-classic-in-waiting ‘Marlborough Road’. A good sense of when to add dynamics and other little touches (whether it be just a simple handclap or two, as ably demonstrated in the set’s penultimate number ‘Postcode Wars’) further highlights the thought that has gone into developing the material.

One more number (‘Wronghead’) and they’re gone, hot-footing it in a cab to London. I’m not expecting them back anytime soon; Cambridge had its chance and blew it. Three other cities now have the opportunity to do the right thing.

The ‘Lock em Up’ Tourette continues at The 13th Note, Glasgow (28/09/11), The Full Moon, Newcastle-under-Lyme (29/09/11) and The Actress & Bishop, Birmingham (30/09/11).