The Clause are another band adding to Stephen Pennell’s list of Next Big Brummie Things.
Digbeth Institute 2,
Saturday 23rd February.
I got the bad news that this gig had sold out from the world’s premier rock and road band Citylightz at their Academy show in January.
I was a bit crestfallen as The Clause are one of my favourite groups and I’d been looking forward to it, but the fact that an unsigned act with no label, management or national radio play had sold out such a big show had taken me by surprise. All was not lost, however – the band and I follow each other on twitter and, hoping that they’d held a few tickets back, I slid into their DMs with a cheeky request.
Me: Any tickets left lads?
The Clause: Yeah, what’s your address?
Me: **, ***** ****, Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham. (No-one from the Wood adds Solihull to their address – we’re proud Brummies, and to hell with property values).
The Clause: I’m from Chelmsley fella, wanna meet me outside Asda at midday tomorrow?
So here I am, after a couple of pints at my favourite city centre boozer – now I’m boycotting Wetherspoons – The Victoria, part of a boisterous crowd waiting for four moddy-looking young geezers from Birmingham to play the Institute. It’s a walk down memory lane for me as my own gang of four moddy-looking young geezers from Birmingham played the same venue thirty years previous. Our manifesto was to walk like the Kray brothers and sing like The Jam – we had the walk off to a tee but I suspect we probably sang like the Krays as well.
I wasn’t the only one looking forward to seeing the band. Among the 600 in attendance I spotted the force of nature that is Genie Mendez from electro-pop combo Lycio; Jack Sanders, the actor who plays me so well stumbling down Lower Trinity Street in The Clause’s Tokyo video; Mark Piddington, who was filming the gig for the best music show on the Internet, Raw Sound TV; and the indefatigable AffieJam, who told me she is contemplating doing a cover of Tainted Love.
I put her straight on the lyrics that all other covers of Gloria Jones’ Northern Soul monument have got wrong, and got on with looking forward to the brilliant re-imagining of the song that she’ll come up with, without a shadow of a doubt.
Unprofessional as ever, I missed the first three support acts, Here Casino, La Dharma and Glass Ceilings, but I already know that La Dharma are good (check out their sumptuous indie masterpiece Sirens), and at least saw KANVAS fire up the mosh-pit with a great version of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, before the headliners took the stage to a heroes welcome on the latest leg of their sold-out nationwide tour.
Lead guitarist (and Asda-based ticket distributor) Liam Deakin kicked things off with the hypnotic riff of fourth single Tokyo, a song so undeniably great they must be tempted to open with it, close with it and throw it in as an encore. Luckily, they don’t need to, as they can and did follow it up with third single Sixteen, a song so undeniably great they must be tempted to open with it, close with it and… you get the picture.
Frontman Pearce Macca, six-feet of pure charisma in an ice-blue suit, is as elegant lyrically as he is sartorially. “I’m in awe/as your lips wrap round the straw/of a strawberry daiquiri”, he sings, and though I’m sure The Clause are rock and roll enough to know that you don’t drink strawberry daiquiri through a straw, you also don’t discard a line that good just to mollify pedants like me. It’s my favourite Brummie lyric since Lady Leshurr said “my bars touch the kids like R Kelly” in Queen’s Speech 7.
A quartet of new songs followed – Cigarette Kiss, Hate The Player, Comedown Conversations and Vive La Revolution – but it was a quartet of jäger bombs for a tenner at the bar and I was having too good a time to make notes on individual songs. The overall vibe though, was unforgettable, whatever you were drinking (rohypnol aside).
Bassist Jonny Fyffe has the same no-nonsense, detached air of John Entwhistle, while drummer (and almost my namesake) Niall Fennell is such a Mani-from-the-Stone Roses-level genius on the kit that I’m tempted to forgive the beard. Almost. It’s 2019 man, lose the facial hair! It’s one of those things, like three-quarter length trackie bottoms, that only look good on a black man.
The rhythm section laid a solid foundation for the guitar pyrotechnics of Liam and Pearce, and together the boys are greater than the sum of their parts. It seems they all bring different influences to bear – the look and feel of Sixties Mod and nineties Britpop are obvious, but there is more to it than that. One minute I was reminded of Maroon 5, next it was the Scissor Sisters, while echoes of The Killers were never far away.
We got back on familiar punky-indie territory with second single Golden Age, then violinist Lukas Evans joined the lads to add lashings of melancholy to the song that proves the band are already at that magical point where crowds are singing their songs back to them. It’s the best ballad Noel Gallagher never wrote, and it’ll sound brilliant when they play it at Glastonbury.
Yeah, I said it. An achingly beautiful lament which can be interpreted any way the listener wants; it could be about a relative who has passed away, a friend you’ve fallen out with, an ex-partner, or maybe all three. It’s called Where Are You Now? and I was singing it to the deaf and blind record label A&R people who’ve failed to sign this brilliant band. Sort yourselves out!
Another new song, In My Element, was a worthy prelude to the big finish, their first single Shut Me Out. A fitting finale for me as I spent the rest of the night up the road at the Big Bull’s Head’s always enjoyable Northern Soul night, before getting home in the small hours to find that my lovely-but-fed-up wife had locked me out to ensure she had the chance to tear a strip off me when I got back. Ah well, no hardship – she’s even more beautiful when she’s angry.
Anyway, as I was saying, The Clause are going to be a huge success, and I’ve never been so sure of anything since I first heard this year’s Brit Awards winner, Walsall’s finest Jorja Smith. Talking of awards, the competition for best indie/rock band at this year’s Birmingham Music Awards in May promises to be white-hot. For me the main contenders are Karkosa, Sugarthief, CityLightz, The Cosmics, The Novus and The Clause of course, but altogether there are sixteen nominations. An omen? Spooky!
But enough of all that, you want to know whatever happened to MY band don’t you? Sadly, it all ended in tears and ignominy after a New Years Eve gig at an Irish pub, where we were booked to play by a panicked landlord when his preferred option of a more traditional band cancelled at the last minute.
Not surprisingly, we were free, and ready, willing and able to help out, but halfway through our reggae version of The Temptations’ Just My Imagination, someone from the crowd shouted “Can’t you do something Irish?” Unfortunately, our (Irish) drummer responded with “We can go outside and dig up the car park if you like” and we just about escaped with our limbs and instruments intact. Our ‘career’, on the other hand, lay in ruins. It was a mercy killing. We were hopeless. A totally different trajectory awaits The Clause – remember I told you.