Gregory Webster of Sportique
Tuesday night, August 2nd 2005, and it’s down to the 100 Club for the latest
show in the Television Personalities return to the light after years of Dan Treacy
being lost in the dark wilderness of substance addiction / abuse and mental instability.
First on the bill are The Ghosts, the side project of current TVP’s drummer and
celebrated contemporary visual artist Matthew Sawyer. Sawyer once famously painted
birds on the soles of a neighbours shoes in the dead of night (unbeknownst to
the owner of the shoes), titling the piece ‘Someone to Share My Life With’ after
one of Dan Treacy’s most treasured songs, and a similar emotionally charged tension
between the desire to connect and the need to remain isolated filters through
The Ghosts’ set. With songs about getting lost in Hammersmith, Monday papers
and penny falls (check out their 3" CD on Unpopular), watching The Ghosts is
Mo Tucker’s VU blend with The Diskettes, resulting in a magical contradiction
where pared back strength and fragility go hand in hand through urban spaces
echoing to the sounds of time-travelling children. The Ghosts are heart-warming
and cool all at once; fired with a blank emotional charge that reminds me of
watching Patrick Keiller’s London, and that’s a fine recommendation indeed.
Next up are Sportique, making one of their far too rare forays to the stage. Fronted by one time Razorcuts leader Gregory Webster, Sportique have made a handful of deliciously sharp and fizzing suburban Pop/Punk minor masterpieces for the Fortuna Pop/Matinee stables, and live they make a similarly glorious racket that showcases a love for a richly intelligent Pop which draws its lineage direct from Wire and Buzzcocks’ pivotal explosions of intent from the late ‘70s. Sportique turn in a performance that is sweetly, sublimely succinct and filled with an energy and highly developed wit that pisses on all the young ‘punk’ pretenders I’ve seen on the TV of late. If the world were more fickle and the media less driven by lowest common denominator ‘indie’ shtick, then a group like Sportique would be superstars and ugly chancers like Razorlight would be laughed off of our screens and newspaper pages. But it isn’t, and they aren’t. Man, the world sucks, doesn’t it?
Now, there’s an album with a title that suggests The Television Personalities could have been bigger than The Beatles, which is some wildly hilarious claim of course. In truth the Television Personalities have always had much more acclaim heaped on them over their fragmentary history than they have had record sales, and their place in history as influence on the likes of Nirvana has left them positioned in the landscape of early 21st Century ‘indie-pop/rock’ as a strange cabinet of curiosities. Certainly Daniel Treacy’s story is darkly fascinating, and Domino Records, flush with Franz Ferdinand cash, consider him and his motley crew worth investing in. Whether they live to regret their investment or not remains to be seen, and certainly on this show’s evidence they might want to think twice about undertaking any live performances to promote the new recordings. For tonight Daniel is by turns feisty and bored, argumentative and dismissive. He is prone to withdrawing from old songs less than halfway through, leaving the rest of the group to improvise to a conclusion, and whilst at times it’s entertaining and amusing, most of the time it is merely desperately sad and hugely frustrating. It’s especially frustrating because you know that from somewhere in that damaged soul, Dan Treacy is capable of extracting genius. He’s proven it so many times with so many songs of rare value, all of them clearly built upon the desperate fragility of a life lived on the edge and inhabited by visionary poetic demons. But it seems that these days it’s impossible for him to confront those demons in the public glare (even a largely loving public most of the crowd here are long time fans who wish Dan nothing but goodwill) without dissolving into a cruel parody of himself. There are flashes of brilliance of course; the appearance of Jowe Head to take up the bass for a grand ‘Salvador Dali’s Garden Party’ is a delight, and the performance of some of the new songs hold together well. In particular the forthcoming single with its refrain of ‘all the young children on smack, all the young children on crack: they deserve something better, they deserve something back’ is beautifully haunting and chilling and frankly as wonderful as I remember it sounding at the bands’ comeback show last December. It’s not enough to ease the pain of vast expanses of rambling void, however, and as Dan launches into what I consider to be an ill-advised cover of The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’, I seek the relative fresh air of Oxford Street, and remember what was and what might have been. It’s a bittersweet thought.
© 2005 Alistair Fitchett