A gas-masked nurse, a topless faceless showman, a glam rock terrorist, a playing card and a blushing bride walk into a studio bar… It sounds like the opening line to a really bad joke, and in a way it is. The punchline, however, is a rollicking version of cabaret punk comedy rock best described as Half Man Half Biscuit sexing up Monty Python in Amanda Palmer’s hallway. These people are marching purposefully towards what, whilst small, is now Komedia’s second stage – its upstairs gig room having been surrendered to arthouse cinemas. We’re all Hove now, God help us.
The Lovely Brothers, however, are not Hove. They are resolutely Shoreham, Portslade and all points (ie Southwick) inbetween. The five wait patiently for their sixth and probably most ridiculously dressed member. Said frontman arrives in his maroon flamenco shirt and ill-fitting suit, claiming: “I was sat in the dressing room wondering where you’d all gone, then I heard drums.” The rest of the band have been playing and desperately ad-libbing for a couple of minutes now. There is no artifice here – they really are this shambolic, but in a good way.
Not for these garishly dressed gadabouts a set list apiece – they only had one copy and gave it to someone doing filming. We wait between tracks while they try and find her to ask which track is next. We also wait between tracks while guitarist Ben gets interactive with the audience, to the faux annoyance of a singer who plays the frustrated Wise to a not-as-funny-as-he-thinks Morecambe. Opening act MJ Hibbett, of computer geek favourite ‘Hey Hey 16K’ fame, has warmed the crowd up for audience participation, but not to this level. One audience member is called a ‘krypto-Nazi’ and later on several people are nearly garotted by a 25 metre guitar lead as the band take the gig – quite literally – to the crowd.
The songs themselves are as tightly performed as you would expect from a band who have been doing this for seven or eight years now. Semi-operatic opener ‘Kebab’ is a paean to the late-night food of kings, ‘The Ideal of Manhood’ is a Noel Coward-esque paean to the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the encore (as much band demanded as audience requested) ‘Elixir of Youth’ is a paean to getting pissed on cheap cider as a teenager. Pretty much every song is a paean to something that normally wouldn’t have a paean dedicated to it. Always a paean, never a pain.
The melodies tend to be led by the keyboards, as is the way with much cabaret punk, but triple strings – guitar, bass, violin – crash in with the percussion on the choruses of clever songs about fake doctors (‘There Is Something Wrong With You’), debated illnesses (‘OCD’, during which the band proceed to literally re-arrange the furniture) and pseudo revolutionaries (‘Vladimir’). Only on ‘Cyber Love’ is the music a letdown, but then said track is essentially a comedy dance skit set to cheesy backing track with no live music involved.
Whilst the Lovelies might on paper read like a ladsy joke, that isn’t the case. For starters, between one and three members of the sextet are actually female. It’s difficult to tell which ones, though, given the elaborate costumes – although we’re 90% sure that pianist Mr Pump, who is stripped near-naked late on, is male. There’s also a political edge lurking behind the playfulness. It’s hard to classify the Lovely Brothers. Are they a band? A cabaret act? A comedy troupe? Or a crazy mixture of all three? In summary: yes, but in a good way.
Komedia Studio Bar, Sunday 18th November 2012
Words by Adam Peters
Photos by Will Barber @ Love Heart Photography