NME Awards Tour, Birmingham

This year’s NME Awards Tour was a thoroughly depressing experience for several reasons. A remarkable prevalence of rather creepy, down-with-the-kids yuppies in short-sleeved shirts was one. An even more remarkable prevalence of children intent on capturing every second of four – yes, four – entire sets on their mobile fucking phones was another. And the fact that an excellent Glasvegas set was marred by Oasis fans playing danger-pint with their foreheads and burping ‘here we fucking go’ again and again between songs was the icing on the proverbial soggy biscuit.

But all of these pale, nay, evaporate into insignificance when considered alongside something far more important (and please, please take heed of what I am about to write here): the fact that White Lies are the most paradigm-redefiningly appalling little nugget of derivative, ignorant, tawdry and above all, insulting musical shit I have ever seen played live.

They used to be a band called Fear of Flying. Fear of Flying were an unobtrusive bit of fluff. Fear of Flying sounded a bit like the Departure, a bit like a noughties Duran Duran, a lot like 2006. And that was fine, because that was what it was: unpretentious disco-filler. It is the fact that White Lies see themselves as the exact opposite – so obviously see themselves as the next link in the chain that brings together Bauhaus and Interpol, the Cure and the Chameleons (actually, White Lies probably haven’t heard of the Chameleons) – that makes them so utterly nauseating. Because they are, if anything, even more spectacularly two-dimensional than their former incarnation.

Drenching the stage in black clothing, dry ice and reverb does not turn you into Joy Division. Combining a baritone even more false and uncomfortably contrived than that of the Editors’ Tom Smith with ‘eerie’ synth lines does not turn you into Joy Division. Doing that early Bloc Party thing – you know, the whole repeating meaningless lyrical conceits until they become ‘profound’ thing (‘farewell to the fairground / These rides aren’t working anymore’ anyone?) does not turn you into Joy Divison. You are a major label invention White Lies, a cynical attempt to buy into a musical tradition responsible for some of the greatest bands of all time. What’s even more depressing is that you are exactly the sort of band that the NME would have seen straight through ten years ago. Now fuck off and die.

Lucky enough to follow the Worst Band In The World, Friendly Fires were always going to look excellent by comparison. And although I spent their forty-five minutes still seething with White Lies-induced rage, I have vague memories of them doing a pretty good job, the complexity of their live arrangements and their almost prog-like, nuanced, shoegaze-spattered way of putting together a set belying the simplicity of the dance-pop zeitgeist that spawned them. Yes, there is something rather dated about their cowbell-tastic tendency to impersonate the Rapture, but ‘Paris’ deserved to be the happiest, sweatiest love-in of the entire night – unfortunately, the White Lies fans got in the way.


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