T4's Nick Grimshaw takes CTRL

Over the last few years, Topman hasn’t so much embraced emerging British music, as made it part of its mission statement. The menswear chain has been increasingly involved in touring, promoting and generally buzzing off new bands for ages, there’s even an outpost of Rough Trade in the London store. This latest student jaunt then, shows they know their onions; the cherry picked bands included The Big Pink, Miike Snow, Everything Everything and The Futureheads.

The impressive roster was put together the Sunday morning funsters at T4, which will soothe hangovers everywhere with highlights from the gigs very soon. Rick, Miquita and the gang laid on a week of shows in University Cities across the country with the London show curated by Nick Grimshaw, whose status as something of a tastemaker is growing ever stronger.

True to form, his choices for the penultimate show of the tour look perfect, the shiny indie jangle of Babe Shadow, electronic loveliness from Silver Columns and oddball pop from the architects of one of 2010’s best records so far, Yeasayer. Three bands playing under the arches of London Bridge, in the murky mustiness of a recently reopened Shunt was an exciting prospect, made evident by the snaking queue and palpations about seeing Yeasayer in such a small venue.

But before Brooklyn’s weirdest and best came two bands Grimmy tipped for big things. Communicating via four monitors, Grimshaw acted MC for the night, providing enthusiastic banter before each band. His first choice, Babe Shadow have been bubbling along nicely for a while now, and their combination of ramshackle pop and boundless enthusiasm makes them difficult to ignore. Closer and single ‘Sea Serpents’ is by far their best, and made sure we’ll see them again in the future.

Next came Silver Columns (Grimmy says they’ll be here, there and everywhere very soon), a duo armed with tunes-a-plenty. As they danced around their decks, bouncing off each other and their equipment, loud, bass-heavy electro pop segued out around the brick walls. Despite the strength of the songs, the Wednesday night atmosphere and the relatively static crowd meant that no one was able to make the most of the experience.

That isn’t to say that the pair,Adem and The Pictish Trail, were about to let the set fizzle out, both ventured, armed with drums and megaphones, into the crowd during an impressive ‘Cavalier’ to finally inspire a more appropriate reaction.

With appetites whetted, we braced ourselves for Grimmy’s next appearance, when he excitedly informed us that Yeasayer are surfing a ‘massive wave of success.’ And Clash can’t argue with him. Their second album ‘Odd Blood’ has showcased their way with a pop hook, opening the eyes of the uninitiated to the confusing but massively enjoyable world of weirdness they inhabit.

On ‘Odd Blood,’ they have succeeded in retaining the musical vulture quality of their debut (genres are still gloriously mixed and matched), whilst adding some 80s-indebted Captain Hook style pop choruses.

Backed by two drummers, the trio launch into the album’s intro ‘The Children.’ A boiler-suited Chris Keating’s distorted vocal is a trippy welcome to their performance and second track ‘Strange Reunions’ a soupy prog stomp, punctuated by clattering percussion and back up vocals from Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder. The guitarist and bassist also contribute keys, synths and what not, but when the three combine vocally (‘Madder Red’), we get visions of a disturbingly appealing barbershop trio.

The three men on stage revel in an abundance of musical ability, but the way they bring their songs to life, each as mutating, multi-layered bestial, magical as the next, is astonishing.

Later come their three biggest choruses, in the closing trio ‘O.N.E,’ ‘Mondegreen,’ and ‘Ambling Alp.’ Predictably, they are lapped up, but so noticeable is the shift in atmosphere that Keatings calls the crowd a ‘singles audience.’

It would be a shame if they really were only waiting for the hits, because Yeasayer offer so much more than this. A one hit wonder they are not and, but for a more appreciative crowd, Topman and Grimmy’s evening would have gone off with the bang it deserved.

Words by Ben Homewood

View a photo gallery from the Topman CTRL Student Tour HERE.

Find out more about Topman CTRL at their MySpace HERE.

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