Playing at the muso-friendly Lexington by London’s Kings Cross, Felix Bechtolsheimer and crew tonight serve up a number of new songs from the latest album ‘People In Cars’ with an ample buffering of the Curse’s previous highlights.
The group’s polish, style, melody, musicianship and atmosphere positions the sound at some nebulous epicentre of influences of the likes of indie, rock, alternative, gothic, roots – and you could add your own sub-genres too. As such, their appeal really should be deep and wide. They’ve been AUK website stalwarts for some years and have a few thousand words of coverage totalling to a long term Thumbs Up. The pandemic period was particularly traumatic for Bechtolsheimer as he lost his father, uncle and ex-partner over those months and so it’s not surprising that the themes of mortality and loss from much of the earlier work have driven most of the newer material, and as ever, he is very candid in his emotional expositions. And tonight he lets the songs speak for themselves with very little between-song explanation.
Various personnel changes occurred over the pandemic period though the revamped band is super slick. The current line up behind the main man is Chris Jones – drums, vocals, piano, Bo Lucas – vocals, percussion, Tom Sandsbury – bass, synth, vocals, Joe Harvey-Whyte – pedal steel, electric guitar and, guesting mid set, was Carlos de los Santos – Rhodes piano
Opener ‘Think I’m Alright Now’ pulses along with the singer “shaken and stranded” before rising back to stability. Then there’s the baritone of ‘Steppin’ Out’ where, in a low subdued almost growl, we hear “She scrubs my soul/I can’t seem to get the stains to fade” Next song ‘Let Your Love Rain Down On Me’ is actually explicitly about people in the new album’s titular car, where the emotional “toxic….scars ” are present. ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ picks up the pace and volume with a more meat and two veg rock beat before the dialled back ballad ‘It’s All Over Now You’re Gone’ in which “winds are howling/howling round my heart “, as he takes his reluctant leave. Similarly, inviting mainstays from their repertoire follow, ‘Way To Mars’, dedicated to former tour partner Chuck Prophet, and ‘London Rain’ building to a compelling instrumental wig out, one of very few songs which are extended beyond their concise arrangements. ‘Don’t Take Your Love Away’ is a ballad of just the two singers trading solo verses over piano and keys. Bo Lucas is on a double shift tonight. ‘So Damned Beautiful’ is a standout, menacing vocal sung-spoken over a big ballsy drumbeat and swirling keyboards.
Final track of the main set is the familiar ‘Valentine’ which encapsulates the band’s sound and themes. Encore closer ‘Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride’ narrates the bizarre story of the French punk band who rob a bank and are eventually caught apart from the lead singer who escapes detection and narrates the song having dealt with his guilty conscience fully 30 years before confessing. The song bows out with similar rocking style as the band had kicked off with almost ninety minutes earlier. As ever, this is a Curse one should try to experience.
Support is top notch too – Lucas and King, Brighton-based stalwarts of the roots scene for some years, are covering the full tour and they provide a rich Americana noir with the earthy yet rich voice of Bo Lucas carrying a sonic clout with enticing shades of Ruthie Collins and Caroline Spence. The sounds are based on two guitars – always Lucas on acoustic and Hayleigh King on electric, and the duo work off each other winningly. Having sought Gallic rural refuge in Normandy during the pandemic they are now back on the circuit with new material. Particularly polished were ‘Family Business’ and a stripped back version of 1966 Cher classic ‘Bang Bang’.
Yes, it was a great show. They are back out playing at The Jericho Tavern in Oxford tonight (10th May)…