Ruby Lounge, Manchester 02/04/2010
By Craig Nelson
I slowly sink into my couch with each stylish pair of killer heels that totter by.
It’s not so much the thought of being stood in the mosh pit with four inch spikes wielding down on my toes.
No, it is the glares from my wife searing into my soul as I play back my wise advice that ‘brown pumps will be fine love’.
And so it is that we hover back in the Ruby Lounge crowd, a safe distance from the gaggle of scantily clad women, glammed up in early 80s war paint chattering with excitement in the front rows.
The object of their affection is 1913 – the four-piece band feted for greatness as one of the first groups in John Robb’s new label, Modern English.
It feels like this oestrogen-fuelled audience has come straight from a Lady Gaga gig, and there are comparisons.
1913 draws its sound from the same searing synths of the electronic new wave.
And while none of the four fellas take to the stage on a Harley dressed in a designer glitter ball concoction, lead singer Ian Lawton’s guyliner does belie a glint of flamboyance.
The boldness of their sound backs this up, with added depth provided on stage by producer Johnny Jay and his electronic trickery.
In fact, as they rip through a whirlwind set, I get the feeling that this polished performance is designed for a larger, more glamorous venue. This is a band set up for arena tours, complete with laser light shows and dry ice.
Tonight we are just given a glimpse of the full spectacle, the debut single – Atlantis – sandwiched between four other “productions” – Government Warning, Circle, White Satellite and Blood Brother.
It is my initiation to 1913, but I see plenty of fans mouthing the words along with Ian, whose striking wild eyes give him the look of Jimmy (aka Phil Daniels) in the closing scenes of Quadraphenia.
One comparison that doesn’t quite add up is his billing as a 21stcentury Ian Curtis. The 1913 frontman may share the same name, as well as a glimmer of Curtis’s focus and intensity, but his voice is more Phil Oakey.
The band, too, have been described as providing “melancholic death pop” in the Joy Division tradition, but they are really nowhere near as depressing and heavy as Monsieur Robb would have us believe.
Rest assured though that his way with words will have the national press feeding us this diatribe ad verbatim, and with at least three snappers catching their every move it looks like the Robb PR machine is already in overdrive.
On this showing, it looks like 1913 have the material and the skills to back up the hype, just as long as the 80s revival does not peter out before they have chance to clamber onto its full-length coattails.