Like lottery winners on acid.
Hailing from the ashes of the great and scandalously underrated folk/rockers The Crocketts come The Crimea who have been steadily making waves for themselves, and causing a lot of muttering around the music industry for sometime.
Here in the modest venue of the Oxford Zodiac it must be a humbling experience of the two former Crocketts, drummer Owen Hopkin and of course the madcap vocalist Davey MacManus, having played at The Millennium Stadium supporting Stereophonics, and later with The Crimea supporting the likes of Travis and Ash, however tonight on a cold Spring evening, The Zodiac is packed and there is an expectation in the air from an unusually mixed aged crowd.
After a great support slot from female fronted band 'The Hot Puppies', the lights dim and we have an eerie loud cry from a baby, which seems to go on for about five minutes. The band's members slowly appear and pick up their instruments joining in nicely from where the backing sounds and music end. Davey MacManus is the last one to appear up on the small stage and receives a loud cheer as the band jump straight into 'Baby Boom'.
Now of all the bands that have ever played here, and of all the front men that have stood on that stage, you would have to go a long way to find one quite as charismatic and socially lonely as the legend-in-the-making that is Mr MacManus. For the first three songs he remains either still with his eyes closed, or hyperactively strumming an acoustic guitar whilst looking like he's either suddenly possessed by the devil, or is having some sort of seizure! New single 'White Russian Galaxy' comes across superbly and punches you with Davey's poetic verbal meanders, like 'You talk like a fish, in nonsensical bubbles//then blow the world bitch in your smoke ring'. It's mesmerising stuff.
We then have 'Losing My Hair', 'Bad Vibrations' and 'Girl, Just Died', which all have lines that need to be quoted but that would make this review twice as long! It is worth pointing out that Davey MacManus has a book out (which is available here tonight - I know because I bought one!), which is packed full of poetry and psychotic meanderings that are strangely enchanting and thought provoking, if not a little abstract and bizarre - let's all not forget that Davey once said, "If The Crocketts were four cavemen banging rocks together, The Crimea are a bunch of Tchaikovskys banging Kylie,"! However each song, which on their fabulous album (entitled 'Tragedy Rocks') sounds complicated and layered, I was amazed at just how well they are able to bring the tracks to life. Each one sounds perfect and without compromise. Hammond player (that's like a keyboard, folks!) Andrew Stafford has majestic fingers that most likely move in his sleep, the harmonies from Stafford and 6'7" Zimbabwean bassist Joseph Udwin compliment Davey's hap-hazzard vocal style completely, and the tuneful and egoless fret work of Andrew Norton is breath taking. Of course let's also not forget Mr Hopkin who keeps time professionally without the need to overplay.
Of course 'Tragedy Rocks' only has ten songs so there are sprinkles of new songs between the brilliance, which all sound very good. We also have 'Gazillions Of Miniature Violins' before the emotional and moving 'Someone's Crying', which is basically a remix of Kum-Ba-Ah but which asks questions of why the Lord doesn't intervene to help people in need. Controversial and relevant it's good stuff, Davey thanks everyone in a voice that sounds like he may cry, and wanders off of the stage, the rest of the band then follow...
A female voice plays out with a spoken gospel which I'm sure comes from the pen of Mr MacManus, and pretty soon the motley crew are back out again. Davey grabs the mike stand and wanders into the crowd turning his back to us, and probably away in a trance the band start 'Opposite Ends' which the vocals are almost spoken and poetic like, 'You look so good, I wanna see hundreds and thousands of you// Crawling through the desert like a crusade of half dead bluebottles// Our brains leave their skulls// Walk the tightrope of our rabbit in the headlight stares// Melting together like pink and white marshmallows...'. Next song is a surprise cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Everywhere', which probably shouldn't work, but does! And finally we have their now signature tune 'Lottery Winners On Acid' - the song that got the blessing from the late great John Peel, and one that you will find yourself humming for a lifetime!
The Crimea play well constructed folk/rock non too dissimilar to The Crocketts, but perhaps with better and more intelligent music. It won't be long before they blow up in a big way, and you'd be a fool not to experience them.