Presidents of the USA – live

London Forum,
16/3/12

Nostalgia is a “death move”, according to Smashing Pumpkins frontman (and sole founding member) Billy Corgan, a man who clearly doesn’t have much time for the current trend of veteran bands revisiting their ‘classic’ albums in concert. He may well have a point, but those who had the dubious pleasure of witnessing the Pumpkins on their UK tour last November would arguably beg to differ, just as they must have begged for the likes of ‘Zero’ and ‘Today’ to break up a set comprised largely of painfully self-indulgent recent efforts. Not that this should have been much of a surprise; even on 1995’s “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness”, Corgan’s ambition was starting to get the better of him.

That was nearly two decades ago, and at that time, Seattle trio The Presidents Of The USA were sitting happily at the other end of the pretentiousness scale, with a debut album that extolled the simple joys of cats, rock music and – of course! – Peaches. Seemingly on a mission to have as much fun as possible, the Presidents were just what the doctor ordered for those post-grunge years, and tonight, the almost sold-out Forum suggests that this party still has legs.

Straight Lines could really use a few musical twists and turns. The Cardiff quartet deal in fairly inoffensive pop-rock, but don’t really deserve much more than the polite applause that they receive.

The Presidents are playing that self-titled debut in full tonight, and although the crowd has aged with the band, everyone still gleefully bounces around as the stop-start riff of ‘Kitty’ kicks in. There are few surprises in store, save for a few bizarre mid-song anecdotes from vocalist/bassist Chris Ballew, and the record’s occasional weaker moments don’t gain much power in the live setting. Still, it matters little, considering that the vast majority of the songs are greeted like old friends, and that there’s barely a soul in the house without an inane grin plastered across their face.

Nostalgia? Undoubtedly, but tonight is proof enough that it can be fun to step back in time once in a while.

Alex Gosman