Here in DC, a local club hosts an excellent monthly Brit-pop dance night called "Mousetrap," which I try to go to as much as my schedule allows. A DJ-dance night is one thing, but would I pay to see many of the bands the DJ plays live? Probably not. I've never been one to see a band live that relies more on electronics and pre-recorded tracks because, let's face it, a pre-recorded track is a pre-recorded track. How much could the live show of a band like that possibly differ from what's on their record? I guess I feel like if a band's live performance is the same as putting the record on at home and closing my eyes, I'll take the money I'd have spent on the ticket and put it towards my raging addiction for cute shoes. From the bit of music I'd heard from the UK's Ting Tings and the rather scathing reviews of their live shows I'd read before their 930 Club show earlier this week, I was certain I'd find them in this category- great to dance on record but mediocre live.
Guess what? I was wrong. I enjoyed it, primarily because this Brit-pop techno-punk duo runs rather counter to what you'd expect of a typical Brit-pop techno-punk duo (or band for that matter).
First off, lead singer Katie White can really sing. Her voice is surprisingly good and, dare I say it, pretty. There were some pre-recorded backing vocals in spots during the show, but you could always tell what was her and what wasn't; her singing is that solid. I can't even crack on her for using the many guitars handed to her during the show as more of an outfit accessory instead of an instrument as many have reported, because her voice was so good it just wasn't important. Secondly, drummer/guitar player/co-vocalist Jules De Martino is a skillful drummer who can actually play (no Flock of Seagulls synth-drums here) and creates the basis for their hard-driving sound (hard like you could feel the bass drum in your chest). De Martino stayed seated at his drum kit the entire show and frequently switched between drums and guitar, at times playing both simultaneously, which isn't something you see everyday.
While we deduced that half of their sound was from a pre-recorded track, something I would normally hate because it seems like cheating, the half that White and De Martino provided showed they really did have talent as musicians and the sound wasn't all just from a synthesizer or a Macbook. The pre-recorded track was a bit of filler, like two types of sauce on a sundae instead of just one. Plus, they rocked a cowbell (live no less!) towards the end of Shut Up and Let Me Go. Cmon, how many Brit pop dance bands do you know that do that?
Overall, the songs were damn catchy and energetic, like work-up-a-serious-sweat-on-the-dance-floor catchy and energetic (and I say this having only heard a snippet of That's Not My Name prior to the show). The lyrics aren't much from what I could make out at the 930, but it's poppy dance music, it's not supposed to comment on world events or the state of the union. Any driving mix you make this summer though would do well to include Great DJ or That's Not My Name at the very least.
And even if you don't care for "dance" music per se, give The Ting Tings live show a chance. It really has more rock undertones than you think. The way their music gets the crowd amped up and pogoing around, I bet you a million dollars you'll be swept up in the show and, at the very least, tapping your foot along, for real.
NPR streamed the show Tuesday night which you can listen to here.
(The Ting Tings are currently on tour and will be playing the Monolith Festival in September).