Shrag & Standard Fare @ the Lexington, London Friday 4th March

Standard Fare @ the Lexington, London Friday 4th March
Standard Fare @ the Lexington

Standard Fare are a very tight three-piece hailing from North Derbyshire and now based in Sheffield.  They are Andy Beswick, Danny How & Emma Kupa who plays bass & sings most of the catchy well constructed sweet ‘boy-meets-girl’ love songs.  The guitarist’s quiet and bashful softly spoken vocals are the antithesis of Emma’s infectious and unique vocal style.  I’ve been racking my brains since I first heard Emma sing as to whether I can think of a comparison, but alas, all I can say is, I love it!

In amongst a big wave of indie pop music that for many bands offers little more than reproduction of the jangle and twee indie pop of the 1980’s Standard Fare have something different to offer, but most of all they have great pop songs.  Tonight they were as tight and professional live as they are in the studio.  The well received set included songs from last year’s wonderful debut album, The Noyelle Beat and their new single Suitcase and Nine Days released this month on Melodic Records.

Up-tempo tracks like the excellent 7” singles Philadelphia, Suitcase and Fifteen had the crowd dancing and cheering for more. The guitarist looked bashful as he swung his guitar and stepped up to the microphone, looking down or away from the crowd.  In fact he looked so young I thought he must have come straight from school.  By way of contrast, Emma Kupa revelled in fronting the band with an amazing vocal delivery – such a strong voice.

A perfect live set so good that it left me wondering if tonight’s headline band were going to be effected by such a strong, popular performance.  But I needn’t have worried.  After all, tonight’s headliners were Brighton’s finest export since the Lo-Fidelity Allstars.

Standard Fare @ the Lexington, London Friday 4th March
Shrag @ the Lexington

When Shrag took to the stage it seemed the whole room was full of expectancy.  Shrag are Helen King (vocals and keyboard), Bob Brown (guitar and vocals), Steph Goodman (keyboard and vocals), Russell Warrior (bass guitar) and Andy Pyne (drums).  Here is an indie pop band that has it all, hopefully not at the peak of their powers but certainly on form.  But would they deliver a set as good as the last time they played the Lexington?

Tonight Shrag sounded even better than when I previously saw them play in October 2010. Once again they gave a solid performance and looked so at home with Helen (King) now commanding centre stage (is she turning into a pop star?) while their songs are delivered with more power and edge – more post-punk angst than twee indie pop!

The sound system was great for a small venue but I don’t think it was just down to the soundman that made Shrag’s sound punchier than before.  The solid backdrop of guitar, bass and drums allows Helen & Steph to be the focal point with their Casio synths and their duel vocals that they deliver so well with a range of riot grrrl, twee C86-style indie pop and post punk music. The set comprised of tracks from their two albums, the first being a self-titled compilation of early singles and their second album – Life! Death! Prizes! which was one of my favourite albums of 2010.  They have some great songs – Tights in August, the recent single Ghosts Before Breakfast, the brilliant Their Stats and the perfect pop song, Rabbit Kids, amongst them.

Like Standard Fare, Shrag can call upon a wealth of quality pop songs that, with their confident stage presence, help to lift them above other bands in amongst what appears to be a 1980’s indie pop resurgence helped by labels like Fortuna Pop. Keep it coming!

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