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Rachael Neiman on Das Wanderlust at the Ritz Ballroom, Manchester
April 27th, 2007
Well, this title is perhaps misleading, Das Wanderlust were not headlining but were in fact supporting Art Brut and Maximo Park on an extensive UK tour and we were lucky enough to be invited to their Manchester appearance. I’ve decided not to review the other two bands on the bill as many people have written extensively about both Art Brut and Maximo Park and I’m sure many reviews will appear about this tour which will devote only a couple of lines to Das Wanderlust and the rest to the two headliners so, I will dedicate this review to trying to redress this balance, and, besides, DW are by far the most exciting and important band on the bill.
I should probably begin by saying that this review has been a long time in the making, it’s very difficult to put into words just how truly superb a band Das Wanderlust are. Seeing the band supporting two such high-profile acts in a venue the size of Manchester’s Ritz was certainly a novel experience. The room was already packed with people when we arrived, the gig had been sold out well in advance so the large venue was packed.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Das Wanderlust many times, they’re seemingly constantly on tour, but despite their draining schedule, far from diluting their sound they somehow manage to make every show more exciting and life-affirming than the last. Das Wanderlust are a truly extraordinary band, a band to make your heart beat faster, a band who it’s impossible not to pay attention to, a band, in short, who deserve every morsel of success they’re now enjoying and much more. They’re right up there with Bearsuit and The Bobby MCGee’s as part of the UK indie pop holy trinity. They are on the brink of releasing their new single on Fierce Panda subsidiary Cool For Cats and are of course in the midst of this high profile tour. Radio 1’s Huw Stephens is a big fan, as are Phil Jupitus, Mark Riley and Everett True amongst others, and the buzz surrounding them has been steadily growing over the last year or so.
Therefore, of course, there was a real feeling of triumph waiting for DW to come on stage in front of this big audience. Granted, in an ideal world, they would be headlining, but everybody has to start somewhere. I couldn’t wait to see what the audience would make of the band. The vast majority were obviously there for the headliners but I couldn’t imagine anyone not being utterly blown away by DW, but then I started to worry a bit, what if the audience didn’t enjoy it? What if they weren’t open-minded enough to appreciate it, I suddenly felt very protective of Das Wanderlust. I’d been following them since their very early days and had watched them go from strength to strength and was just hoping that this audience would be receptive.
I needn’t have worried since they were a hit from the moment they stepped on the stage. I’ve seen many Das Wanderlust line-up changes at gigs in recent months and the line-up for this tour was indeed unexpected. It featured permanent members Laura and Andy, former drummer Ian and a special guest appearance by Jo from the excellent Retro Spankees on bass. For anyone who has not as yet had the good fortune to hear Das Wanderlust or to see them live, they make the most joyous, noisy, shambolic and simultaneously simple and complex music you can imagine, their songs often pelting along at break-neck speed only to screech to a halt then speed off again. Laura and Andy’s considerable keyboard skills are a joy to the ear and a reminder (as though we needed one) of just how essential cheap casio keyboards are to pop music as we know it! Andy plays the recorder while Jo plays the flute, and the whole sound is topped off with Laura’s unique and unforgettable vocals, which I can’t really do justice in words. It suffices to say that she has one of the most distinctive, expressive and pleasing voices I’ve heard since Lisa ‘Bearsuit’ Houghton. The crowd could not get enough, it was great to see so much genuine enthusiasm and the band were clearly very gratified. DW opened their set with the exilerating ‘Apples’. Boasting some of Laura’s most ambitious vocals, it’s a song to blow away all those cobwebs and displace any scepticism, and also a formidable statement of intent. The rest of the set is a mixture of old favourites like the poptastic ‘I Wish I Was A Robot’ and their debut single ‘The Orange Shop’ along with some promising new numbers. Lost in their technicolour whirl of keyboards, flutes, recorders and handclaps, the most joyous sounds you can imagine all mixed together in one perfect band. It’s strange to reflect that they are able to pack in such a range of moods in their songs.
‘Sea Shanty’ is an incredibly poignant song about the fear of losing those closest to you and nearly always makes me want to cry, but, it’s ok because the mood is soon lifted, the band’s warm, friendly and relaxed stage presence reminding that not only are Das Wanderlust a great band but they’re also some of the nicest people in pop music today. The whole set is over far too soon and leaves behind a strange feeling of disbelief, can a band this good really exist or were they some wonderful hallucination? They really are the band of my dreams, as they leave the stage I really envy the audience members who have just seen their first Das Wanderlust gig, it really is an exhilarating experience!
In a time when it’s all too easy to write off pretty much anything that’s popular as being not worth of listening to, Das Wanderlust are a true pop band, a band who will be being interviewed by Lauren Laverne on The Culture Show and performing on The Jonathan Ross Show in a matter of months, and far from selling out will be as unashamedly brilliant as they are now. They could even bring about a musical revolution, and the kids will be rushing out to buy Bearsuit and Bis records, and the person sat next to you on the train will have ‘The Orange Shop’ ringtone on their mobile phone, and David Cameron and Gordon Brown will tell journalists how much they enjoy listening to Das Wanderlust on their MP3 players and even dedicated music snobs like myself will approve of their success, after all, when a band‘s this good it’d be selfish to want to keep them from being heard by as many people as possible, wouldn’t it? Anyway, a girl can dream...
But, until then, the increasing numbers of us lucky enough to be in on the secret can rejoice in the amazing new single ‘Sunday School’ which is every bit as good as you’d expect from one of the best bands in the world at the very top of their game. Das Wanderlust are the musical equivalent of the grand New Year’s Eve firework displays in London, a truly awe-inspiring multi-coloured noisy dream of flames and sound lighting up the skies and gone far too soon, always leaving you wanting more.