Tilly And The Wall
The first thing you notice as you enter the Astoria tonight is the gaudily decorated stage, complete with red curtain backdrop and several disco balls hanging from the rafters. It may look more 80s disco than new-rave; but it has to be said that ever since CSS appeared on the scene, they’ve never let preconceived ideas of ‘cool’ get in the way of a damn good party.
Ratatat‘s minimalist set-up (a keyboard, guitar, and solitary snare drum) at first seems at odds with their surroundings, but they sound impressively huge; hunched over their instruments as they coax deeper, darker, groovier sounds from the speakers. Electro-prog-noir? Oh, go on then.
However, it falls to Tilly And The Wall to truly get the party started; which they do in fine style, gleefully bouncing onstage like a troupe of colourful misfit cheerleaders. Those who would dismiss the presence of tap-dancing percussionist Jamie Williams as a novelty most likely haven’t heard the band’s sublime second album ‘Bottoms Of Barrels‘ – a relatively unsung highlight of 2006 – but tonight, cynicism is futile in the face of their buoyant folk-pop charm. The heartfelt chorus of electro-tinged new single ‘The Freest Man’ is a genuine lump-in-throat moment; ‘Sing Songs Along‘ soon has the crowd doing exactly that; and by the time ‘Nights Of The Living Dead‘ brings the set to a raucous conclusion, the Astoria is Tilly’s sweaty, smiling oyster.
CSS are no slackers in the showmanship stakes either; with singer Lovefoxxx an acrobatic expert of seemingly limitless energy as she skips and somersaults around the stage. Right from the start, the band’s enthusiasm is deeply infectious; and as the dirty electro stomp of ‘Alala‘ is wheeled out second, the crowd merges into a throbbing, pulsing mass with many a glowstick held aloft.
The term ‘new-rave’ seems somewhat inadequate here, given that CSS are more your average guitar band experimenting with dance beats. Recent single ‘Off The Hook‘ is an excellent slice of danceable art-punk that sounds straight out of the late 70s, whilst a surprise electro-rock cover of L7’s ‘Pretend We’re Dead‘ gives clues as to the inspiration for the hint of riot-grrl fire in their sound.
It is, of course, a glorious strobe-drenched finale of ‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above‘ that truly raises the roof tonight; with the support bands joining CSS onstage to everyone’s obvious delight. The fickle jury that is the buying public will surely seal the fate of new-rave in months to come; but for now at least, CSS are deservedly off the hook.