"His guitar neck always seems a millimetre (and badly timed head nod) away from wiping out the front row."
It's hard to believe that just over a decade has passed since End Of Fashion released their self-titled debut. Five prime ministers and 11 years later, the band have reformed to play a national tour.
The indie landscape has changed dramatically since the release of End Of Fashion. The bombastic swagger of mid-'00s indie-rock has given way to heavily electronic sounds, with most of the band's peers either defunct or on indefinite hiatus (whatever happened to Faker, anyway?). Tonight's gig at the unshakably hip Northcote Social Club could either be a last gasp, or a sign of new life.
Punters stretch out lazily on the floor and across the stairs while Donna Summer's She Works Hard For The Money blares through the speakers. It's a shockingly sedate scene; one can't help but wonder what the pre-gig vibe would have been like ten years ago. It's easy to muse whether LCD Soundsystem were right - are we losing our edge?
Queens Of The Stone Age's No One Knows is drowned out, somewhat unexpectedly, by The Muppet Show theme as End Of Fashion take the stage. The band's planned no-hello-straight-into-first-song routine goes a little awry when lead singer Justin Burford's guitar doesn't appear to be set up correctly. What could have been an ominous start is blown away during eventual opener She's Love. Burford's vocals hit both angelic highs and Cobain-esque gravelly wails, although the effect is somewhat spoiled when his microphone drops out momentarily.
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Lock Up Your Daughters is a cheeky, danceable treat, its boppy chorus and swagger has heads nodding as the crowd sings along. Anymore proves to be one of the few cases that a song inches into ballad territory and doesn't cause a mass exodus to the bar. Having never been a personal favourite of this writer, In Denial is a different beast altogether when performed live. The song is an electrical storm of explosive drums and wild, reaching vocals reminiscent of Jeff Buckley in full flight.
Naturally, the assembled masses go berserk for arguably the band's best-known tune, O Yeah. Whether you enjoy it for the delicious piece of musical candy that it is, or denounce it as a Pixies rip-off, it is still wonderfully catchy and Burford tacks on a couple of lines from Where Is My Mind? at the song's conclusion. A puddle of pretty girls splash around at his feet, and the Ziggy Stardust lyric, "He could lick 'em by smiling/He could leave 'em to hang," springs to mind.
Closer Rough Diamonds swirls loopily around the room and swells to a The Beatles-sized conclusion, Burford's wail pouring out of his throat like a thousand knives. His guitar neck always seems a millimetre (and badly timed head nod) away from wiping out the front row.
It's uncertain whether End Of Fashion will reform completely and go on to release new material, but tonight certainly proved they are far from just a trip down Nostalgia Lane. It wasn't the smoothest of shows, with tech problems popping up sporadically, but it was a solid one. They sound grittier, they have nothing left to prove and their sound frequently errs to the heavier side. Hopefully this reformation sparks something, in someone, somewhere and inspires him or her to make the current climate of indie-rock less of a snooze.