The Kids are Alright
Liverpool four-piece Clean Cut Kid are anything but.
Between them the band’s three chaps sport beards, hair and tattoos evoking rednecks scraping up roadkill for dinner outside an Arkansas trailer.
This trades description violation notwithstanding, they can be trusted to serve up peppy eighties pop reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel and Phil Collins.
Their headlining gig at Bristol’s Exchange (capacity approximately 200) follows three nights after supporting Michael Kiwanuka at the Royal Albert Hall (capacity over 5,000.)
Irrespective of how they fared at the home of The Last Night of the Proms, this venue’s intimacy makes for a warm rapport between band and fans, some of whom caught them last time they were in town at the legendary Louisiana.
Chesterfield indie act Trash provide exemplary support, but their lead singer, trying too hard to be funny between songs, would do well to observe the effortless humour flowing from the headliners’ front man Mike Halls: Scouse wit has never been readier.
Taking to the stage through a packed crowd (and stepping, inadvertently, on The Bay’s foot while doing so,) they open with Pick Me Up, which sounds like We Didn’t Start the Fire, with its catchy immediacy and singalong chorus.
In Make Believe, Halls sings about a heart being worn on a sleeve, and there’s a refreshing, even bare-faced honesty to proceedings, with fans cheesily but happily clapping above their heads.
When asked who bought the album, the crowd’s response is underwhelming. “That was half-assed!” said Halls. “I bet you all illegally downloaded it!”
New single Leaving you Behind (the lyric, “You can go your way” doing nothing to dispel the Fleetwood Mac comparisons,) is followed by Time to Let You Go, after which Halls thanks the crowd for their quietness between numbers. “It’s boss, like.”
We are informed Halls wrote Runaway, complete with its Duran Duran Wild Boys rhythm, “On the last day of my student loan…when the last tenner goes out of your bank account, that’s when the Bank of Mum & Dad kicks in!”
For all of Clean Cut Kid’s resolute cheeriness, their lyrics can touch on sadder subjects, with We Used to Be in Love (“Is the first love lost always the one that never heals? My heart is breaking as the tears fill my eyes”) typical of their bittersweet sensibilities.
Lightness is never far away though, with Halls asking which crowd members invaded the stage after the aforementioned Louisiana gig. “That was fun!”
Brother of Mine prompts recording by two of the audience, before Halls asks, “Can we have a round of applause for (support acts) Get Inuit and Trash?”
The crowd respond, only for Halls to request, cheekily, “One more for my mum!”
Guitarist Saul Godman chides: “You can’t make them applaud for just anything.”
Quick as a flash, Halls retorts, “Cats?”
Jean, Halls’ homage to his grandmother, has something of the tenderness of Elvis Costello’s Alison.
Penultimate track Felt prompts clapping en masse, and ends, rather magically, with a moment of complete silence, lost on neither the band nor their followers.
Vitamin C provides a barnstorming finale before fans are told, “We will sign body parts after the show – get it out and we’ll sign it!”
Clean Cut Kid – purveyors of fine pop with a very misleading name.