A. G. Cook Brings ‘Britpop’ Back To Camden

With an exhilarating Underworld show...

“We have one more song”, A.G. Cook announces. We’re nearing the end of his first night of his three-day residency at Camden’s Underworld, where he’s just spent an hour previewing his forthcoming album ‘Britpop’. Hundreds of teenage Londoners begin to wheedle and moan: “One more!” “No, three!” “Come on!!!” 

“I mean, there’ll be an encore after,” he says quickly, “but just…” A cheer erupts from the crowd, and Cook smiles to himself. Once it dies down, he deadpans: “But I’m sad to say it’s our last song”. Right on cue, everybody awwws. This is what Cook has demanded of his audience time and time again throughout his career: play along, and see what happens. 

The PC Music label head is acutely aware of the constructs that popstars uphold (not in the least because he works with them so frequently) and delights in treating them seriously and tearing them down. But with the partial dissolution of one of pop’s most innovative labels, the elephant in the room rears its head and trumpets: what’s next?

Well, it’s ‘Britpop’, but not quite. There were a fair few guitar ballads scattered through the night, which were the least compelling of his upcoming material. Plenty of fuzzy, grungy textures seemed to harken back to the OG Britpop’s formative influences, but never directly emulating the genre (if you believe exists – I don’t). ‘Greatly’ began as a light, airy opener, descending into this great crunching drop, but that was the most musically interesting of the guitar songs so far. 

Cook’s show also teased towards his emerging interest in the mystical, which has so far resulted in his parody platforms Wandcamp and Witchfork (“The Least Trusted Voice In Music”. It echoed in songs such as ‘Bewitched’ (“she’s got that na na na na na na supernatural”) and, to an extent, ‘Green Man’ (something about “gardens” and “emeralds” read as quite witchy). 

What is also clear from the ‘Britpop’ showcase is that Cook isn’t outright rejecting his old sound and starting fresh after the death of PC Music. ‘The Weave’ has these glassy, aquatic synths that I always associate with Cook, whilst recent single ‘Soulbreaker’ and its squat, abrasive breakdown reminds me of PC Music’s early days. 

But there were glimpses into the future from Cook, and they were the most exciting of the night. The opening track of the night is a delirious embrace of gabber that makes your head swirl and your body shake, whilst ‘Out Of Time’ is a gripping cut that ratchets up the tension to unbearable heights until it plummets into a galloping techno section. 

Cook tells us there are 24 tracks on ‘Britpop’, a total of 100 minutes long – though the quality of Tuesday’s songs was uneven, I’m also under no illusion that it’s representative of Cook’s future. It’s going to take three days to sift through everything he has in store for fans; as they say, the third time’s a charm.

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Words: Alex Rigotti // @alex_rigatoni

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