Rob Jones is a one man band by necessity. After a couple of singles that received some radio play but few sales, Jones disbanded his group and took to the road by himself. Thinking his name sounds like a footballer he’s chooses the moniker of The Voluntary Butler Scheme for his new project. Looping samples, vocals, keyboards, guitar, handclaps, table taps and a £5 plastic toy through a vintage mic Jones delivers whimsical tales of haircuts, wheels, heels and a bananas songs about, eh, fruit. Without any smoke or mirrors he makes it all look effortless, Rob’s tunes are quirky, humorous and clever, ranging from ebullient indie pop to simple piano ballads. Having toured with the likes of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, or as he called them ‘skinny bastards’ in a ‘Smash Hits band’, his job for this tour was to get the crowd ‘whooping’ for Brakes, and ‘whoop’ we did.
Brakes take to the stage just after 10pm, this Brighton 4-piece could play their back catalogue back to back and we’d all be home by midnight. That’s not a detraction by any means, some art punk tracks like -Comma, Comma, Comma, Full Stop’ take longer to announce than to perform. Having released their latest album Touchdown the same day, Brakes are playing to a dwindling crowd or at least fewer than their last gig in the same venue. Granted it’s a Monday evening and indie heavyweights Doves have drawn the masses to a sold out Olympia but it still remains that Brakes, one of the finest acts on the live circuit, are sinfully overlooked.
Opening with -Hi How Are You?’ followed by new single -Hey Hey’, tonight’s show promises to be as spastic and raucous as ever. The conceptual lyrics of -Porcupine or Pineapple’ prompts a guest spot by a girl in a pineapple t-shirt to dance around with -Spiky’ the stage prop, also a pineapple.
Dipping into all three albums Brakes play a set of indie rock, country, folk, pop and old-school punk. Hardcore tunes like -Cheney’, -Consumer Producer Chicken Egg’ and -Pick Up The phone’ were belted out in the space of two minutes, while the deranged alt-country -Spring Chicken’ has it own dance. Not just tongue in cheek comedy, Brakes have a strong political theme. -No Return’ is a piercing drunk ballad, a hollow howling that finds Hamilton crooning poignantly as the rest of the band accompany on guitar.
New song -Do you feel the same?’ echoes early Teenage Fanclub. Also off the new album -Don’t Take Me To Space Man’ finds much of the crowd singing along, maybe they bought it very early that day.
Revelling in the intimacy Brakes are playing to the ‘best audience of the tour’ and they lap it up stomping to a pulsating -All Night Disco Party’. The encore includes -Two Shocks’ a fine example of their idiosyncratic style and opener to Touchdown, Brakes most accomplished, focused and serious album. Closing with crowd pleaser -Ring A Ding Ding’, guitarist Thomas White plays to frenzied fans on the floor. Another stupendous show promoting a fantastic album that will hopefully lodge Brakes on the mantel they deserve.