mardi, février 15, 2005

Soulwax live

Soulwax, Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

By David Pollock

Published : 15 February 2005

One can only guess how the brothers Stephen and David Dewaele feel about the bipartite nature of their existence in the public eye. On the one hand, they're respectively the singer and guitarist of Soulwax - certainly Belgium's biggest glam-rock electro band, yet not an outfit singled out for particular praise overseas. On the other, they're the faceless (or, rather, paper-bag-headed, as they appear in publicity shots) duo behind 2 Many DJs, under which pseudonym they arguably produced one of the defining LPs of the 21st century.

In between the glamorous, superstar DJing jobs, you would think that the situation may rankle a little. Sure, they're fêted for playing other people's tunes, but perhaps they feel the band - surely the project closer to their hearts - are left in the shade in comparison. After the success of 2 Many DJs, last year's Any Minute Now Soulwax album may have basked in a little extra critical goodwill, but not enough to overshadow their record-spinning achievements.

But on the evidence of this performance, it's hard to see why. For Soulwax clearly have done everything to - if not achieve unmitigated chart riches - deserve ravings from commentators and healthy cult success.

Their image is spot on to start with: the Dewaeles, bassist Stefaan Van Leuven, drummer Steve Slingeneyer and second guitarist Dave Martijn all dressed in black shirt and trousers against a strobe-flared backdrop of black and white vertical lines. It's eye-assaulting precision, perfectly in keeping with the metronomic funk of their music.

To write them off as simply a crunching, synthesised beat would be a disservice. The Dewaeles have obviously paid attention to what their club audience appreciates, and simple, bullishly catchy Kraftwerk-style synthesiser lines punctuate their songs to frequently air-punching effect. Yet David's raw Stooges guitar and Stephen's austere vocals cut across the top expertly, as if they're trying to manually recreate one of their own automated dancefloor mash-ups. Songs like "E Talking" and the expertly impersonal "Teachers" prove the point, while "Too Many DJs" is, ironically, possibly the most organically glam stomp of the evening.

The irony came when the Dewaeles played an aftershow DJ set at the City nightclub in the heart of Edinburgh. Where their Soulwax show had been a raw, sweaty club thrill, this was - perhaps in response to the nightclub's decor and atmosphere; the Studio 54 experience as sieved through two decades of non-ironic imitation - a distinctly commercial exercise.

Even "Pump Up the Jam" by Technotronic received a look-in, which seems our only hope may be that the next generation of bootleg innovators to appropriate 2 Many DJs' slipping crown recognise the place of Soulwax in rock'n'roll's underground pantheon.

Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, tonight; Concorde 2, Brighton, tomorrow; Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, Friday

© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.