Anyone hearing Real Lies’ epic synth-washed, suburban trawl of London’s North Circular without hearing TS Elliot’s poem, The Wasteland, or at least Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls must be mad (and kicking in tables), lying or both.
“It’s as good as West End Girls,” says an over-enthused reporter.
“No, it’s better,” says frontman Kev, holding up a T-shirt he’s trying to fold from the merchandise.
“No, it’s not.”
“But, it is one of my favourite songs.’
The Balearic bedsit pop of Real Lies has been simmering with promise since the lush electronics and comedown doubts of 2012’s single Deeper. Tonight, they take to the stage in a blur of Sergio Tacchini and Fila, trying to keep their cool, but too pleased to be here to maintain it entirely. The lyric of opener, Black Market Blues encapsulates their mission statement: “You are the straight-through crew, not the Time Out crowd / I love my friends more dearly than I’m allowed to say aloud.” It’s pumped with anger, but tempered with a disconcertingly charming romanticism.
Real Lies are marking the release of their well-received, and long-awaited, debut album in front of a rapturous home crowd clearly intimate with the band’s tendency to post their mobile numbers on social media and throw inclusive parties.
Fronting duties are similarly equalitarian. Kev Kharas shares guitar duties with Tom Watson, but wisely doesn’t rap: it’s spoken word; stream of consciousness scrawled in condensation of night bus windows. There’s a shadow of Ian Curtis’ private intensity in his stage presence. Tom sings the harmonies and choruses, while adding spine-tingling guitar stabs. And as keyboardist Patrick King leaps around, looping the vocals, synth riffs and beats, they hold the night to their chest. It’s a hometown gig, and they’re as rooted in London as Springsteen is to New Jersey. This might be their downfall, but equally arguably it’s their strength.
The set’s like a well-tuned pirate station, with Dab Housing’s gently rolling skank, and the unabashed romanticism of World Peace, (with it’s refrain of ‘the sweetest thing I’ve ever known’ echoing Scritti Politti at their most perfect). They even pull their own Denise Johnson on stage, as the immaculately entitled One Club Town enthusiastically mines its Bassomatic’s Fascinating Rhythm sample: it’s the sequel to Screamadelica , before Primal Scream sent their kids to private school. In such company it’s only Lover’s Lane that fails to hold its own.
There’s few bands taking this music caper so seriously while apparently not giving a shit. Real Lies are the real deal. As Kev says – ‘This is what I do. There is nothing else.’ Recently, there’ve been too few bands with no back up plans. Comparison with The Streets is fair. They share Mike skinner’s eloquence, with rolling lyrical free-associating; the city seen from a rainy 10th storey window. They have one foot beside Burial, XX and Professor Green, yet another in the early 80s disco of New York’s Danceteria, New Order and the blissful-house grooves of the Beloved: it’s as though the 60s stranglehold on influences is finally over; like the Beatles never existed.
With its majestic synth sweeps, it’s the beefed up real hero remix of North Circular that steals the show, although it’s supremacy is challenged by the euphoria of Seven Sisters. With its pounding piano riff and crisp drums, it’s a massive hit that never was.
It’s triumphant and insightful pop music, like they’ve found a crate of vintage Es from 1990. And as the line ‘How many late nights does it take you to change?’ hangs in the air, Real Lies leave the stage, and the audience, grinning alike.
(Photo by Naomi Hood)