How many goddamn cool people are here in a heaving Clwb tonight? Well, none, but then this is an evening celebratory of music that will always remain uncool; what you may call twee and I might call heartfelt or beautifully awkward. Pagan Wanderer Lu, or Andy as he’s also called, could theoretically be some sort of nerd leader, essaying wry lines and chopped guitar over the chunky, fidgety hometronica coming from his iTunes. He might be too fatalistic though; a lot of these tunes dwell on failure and insignificance, though with enough wit and Duplo beats to banish any danger of navel gazing. Indeed, there seems to be a knotty heart to each song, circled by an esoteric braininess and some killer one-liners that I signally fail to write down. There’s also great dicking around with a mini Monome, but we’re getting into slash fiction now.
Allo Darlin’ could take even the blackest, coal-ridden cynic’s heart and squeeze a diamond smile out of it, such is their ridiculously firm grip on grinning pop dynamics. Their bassist, allegedly borrowed from a metal band (definitely the only Dischord T-shirt in the venue), grins hardest: it’s obviously a blast richocheting amongst the band’s ukelele bounce tunes. It’s perhaps music that shouldn’t work – januty, whirling, winsome indie – but there’s something about Allo Darlin’ that resembles pop scrubbed clean of all artifice or knowing, leaving dazzlingly pure music, played laughing, falling down a hill. Huge-footed singer Elizabeth Morris’s Aussie accent adds further clean-sheets appeal. File next to: trips to the zoo and films with happy endings.
But this is the School‘s night, and time for the underdog to dance around and bop you on the nose. After their last official Cardiff appearance, supporting Lisa Milburg to around eight scumbags, it’s weird and excellent to see them in front of people who are pressed up front and literally screaming for their favourite members. A new album, extra musicians and a stadiumful of guestlisters makes for a drunken group hug of a gig: strings and brass add chocolate to the School’s already classically lovelorn tunes, dropping into songs that already revolve around finely-crafted melodic charm. Strong songs with killer moments: the the bridge of ‘I Want You Back’, rushing up the keyboard; the staccato ending to ‘Valentine’ or ‘Let It Slip’s oblique second verse and high-register pinpricks. More soppiness in reviewers please.