Opposite Of Robot: Suicidal Birds + Pony pack + Uncle jeff + Niamh Starkey

Opposite of Robot presents

Suicidal Birds + Support – The Yorkshire House – 18/06/09


By Reza Mills


Accompanying me on this particular night was Totally Wired co-founder Richard Davis and Lunecy Review head honcho Kev Mcveigh. The night’s musical smorgasbord came courtesy of Opposite of Robot and sadly will be the last gig until October. After a somewhat lively discussion as to who provides the best music London and the south or the North, we all settled in for Niamh Starky.


Niamh usually has a full band accompanying her; so it came as something of a surprise when she appeared solo. With a band she comes across like Mogwai covering Joy Division with some ‘ambient loop things’ to quote one reviewer. However tonight was a relatively simple affair, with just an acoustic guitar, a microphone and a stool. Stripped down to the very basics, Niamh plays very twee indie-folk not too dissimilar to Jo Gillot. Gentle acoustic pluckings and a sweet saccharine voice make for a very pleasant sound. She wears her influences on her sleeve, comparisons could be drawn to Camera Obscura (who she covers), Belle & Sebastian and much lamented late Swedish Indie-pop heroes The Wannadies. If there is one criticism to be offered then it is that Niamh seemed rather nervous on the night, some of the guitar licks didn’t quite come off how they should of and she seemed quite eager to get off the stage as soon as possible. An unresponsive audience didn’t really do much to help quell those nerves either. An off-night then for an otherwise very capable performer.


Having seen front man Stephen Hudson perform a brilliant solo set at The Totally Wired re-launch a couple of months ago, I was intrigued to hear what the much talked about Uncle Jeff could offer.  What impressed me was the high level of professionalism present amongst the band members – they were extraordinarily tight yet they managed to make it seem so effortless. It became immediately clear during their set that these guys are serious about reaching the big time and if that is indeed their goal then their certainly heading in the right direction. The band has a wide range of influences from melodic indie pop by way of The Lemonheads and The Eels to a slight Americana influence from Yo La Tengo.  There is also a psychedelic sheen to their songs, particularly the closing track which climaxed with a veritable tidal wave of feedback and distortion which brought to mind avant-garde experimental artists such as …And you know us by the trail of the dead and to a lesser extent Mercury Rev and Early Flaming Lips. What was most impressive was how they managed to combine and focus such disparate influences into one unique sound. It is a rare thing for me to be so blown away by new bands; however Uncle Jeff managed to do so in spades. Alongside 3d Tanx, Ponies, The Lovely Eggs and Joyeux, Uncle Jeff are in very fine company. I for one will certainly be attending their EP release party on the 31st July. Venue to be confirmed.


Which leads us neatly on to our next artist on this mammoth bill; Pony Pack who are a trio hailing from Amsterdam, Holland.  On bass and vocals you had Jane Mack, on guitar Orang Goreng and new drummer Nora Uitterlinden who has been with the band for roughly a year. The band was pretty much no-holds barred from the first song. Battering their way through a collection of riot girl inspired 3 chord hardcore punk. Vocally Jane Mack resembles Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. So much so that at any point during the performance I was half-expecting a call for Revolution Girl style now! The gloriously sloppy performance betrayed a garage rock influence of the more updated kind in the style of The Pandoras and The Donnas.  Although hardly the most earth shatteringly original band I’ve ever heard, they certainly made up for it with sheer enthusiasm and passion. Our very own Kev for example was certainly enraptured by the performance and was head banging down the front like he did back in the early 80’s to Saxon and Iron Maiden. I on the other hand was quietly impressed if not overawed. It did make a nice break to the very subtle and beautiful music being offered by the first 2 acts. Sometimes you just wanna rock and Pony Pack fulfilled that role perfectly.


Into every reviewer’s life a little rain must fall, however even with that thought in mind nothing could have prepared me for the sheer barrage of awfulness that was The Suicidal Birds. The Suicidal Birds are also from Holland, but this time the northern province of Friesland.  They consist of a drum machine and two girls; Jessie on vocals/guitar and Chay on bass/vocals. They have managed to create quite a stir and have received rave reviews both in Holland and The UK. They even managed to get invited to tour with Dinosaur Jr. twice for various festivals in 2006. The band is currently promoting a new CD titled Spend your life in serious misery.  From the off it became clear to me that this was not going to be my cup of tea. Every song started with the same irritating drum machine programmed to sound like Public Image Limited and Joy Division, with that heavy tribal influence. The girls then proceeded to slash away at their collective instruments like their lives depended on it, screaming and howling into the microphones like they were possessed, indeed it was difficult to distinguish what they were quite so worked up about. The band is frequently compared to Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies though how those comparisons came to be in the first place is a mystery to me. The band is much more akin to 80’s Anarcho-punk outfits like Flux of Pink Indians and Crass, without the humour of either.  In fact the uniformity of the songs was wearying and the only positive thing that could be garnered from the performance was its’ conclusion. The audience seemed to be in agreement as they had all dispersed by the second song, maybe something I should have done.


A bit of a shame really as the evening as a whole was quite enjoyable with some varied and interesting acts. So thanks to Richard Turner and let’s hope that Opposite of Robot gigs are better attended in the future.


22 Responses

  1. Cheers Reza!

  2. Just like to point out Reza & Kev took an hour to come up with 10 decent bands from London, i on the otherhand took 2 minutes to come up with 10 decent bands from The North of England.
    The North Kicks Ass Everytime!!!

    • Yeah, yeah, we both know the truth…


      1. Sixousie and the Banshees
      2. The Damned
      3. David Bowie
      4. The Kinks
      5. Elvis Costello
      6. The Small Faces
      7. The Who
      8. Nick Lowe
      9. Graham Parker
      10. The Clash

      And that’s just for starters…

      If truth be told I prefer American bands for the most part.

    • Richard: your credibility died the moment you offered The Libertines as a good band…

      Reza: Where’s Iron Maiden on that list?

  3. Yeah, tripped up there Rich. 🙂

    Kev, played Raven on The Loud and Shouty Show this week. Need a whole other list for the NWOBHM bands. Love Witchfinder General. Ace band.

  4. Re London – surely the Rolling Stones?

  5. I shall not be a happy man until The Libertines reform sorry!!

  6. I liked ‘What a Waster’ (it got the words ‘divvy’ and ‘spiv’ in song) but it was all downhill from there for me.

  7. That was my personal favourite top 10 from London.

    Rolling Stones – haven’t released anything decent since Exile on Main Street. Plus I’m sick of hearing about new albums/tours. Give it up grandads! Plus I’ve never been big into The Stones. Always preferred The Kinks and The Small Faces.

    RE: Libertines – Come on WiredR your better than that! Voice of a generation my arse! They are the same age as me but I can’t relate to them one iota. Tho’ there is a case for getting them back together – no more Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things.

  8. Reza – NWOBHM – Not having it mate, the worst Music Movement in Living Memory. I Should Know most of it came from Birmingham.
    As for you Kev – Iron Maiden!!!!! Nuff Said
    Robot Richard – You are neglecting an awful lot of The Libs back catalogue, go back, do your homework, report back.
    Barry might be right about this new axis of evil – Kev, Reza & Richard!!!

  9. If it wasn’t for NWOBHM – no thrash, hardcore etc. Fair enough there were some exceptionally cheesy bands and I can’t proclaim to be the world’s biggest Maiden fan. However there were some decent bands ala Venom, Motorhead, Raven, Saxon, Witchfinder General.

    I can only really think of Judas Priest who came from up your way, so who else came from there? I sincerely hope your not referring to the mighty Sabbath, they were pretty much dead in the water by the time that scene exploded. Only to be rejuvenated by the brilliant Ronnie James Dio.

    The Libs are awful mate, Pete Doherty is a complete waste of breath. Just another trendy NME cover boy for the masses to fawn over.

  10. Ian Dury!
    Hit me hit me hit me!

  11. Reza, your gonna give me nightmares, if you force me to think back to all those horrible heavy metal bands i grew up with. Most were that crap they didn’t make it, one band i do remember from that time was Diamond Head. They were bad & they were one of the ones who made it.
    As for Judas Priest PAH! Do i need to say anymore??
    No, not for me Heavy Metal.

  12. Diamond Head didn’t exactly make it, Metallica just nicked all their stuff. They weren’t that bad really. But as you say your not into the metal.

    Rock On!

  13. Actually, i like Spinal Tap, does that count??

  14. The Americans completely own at music.

    Without thinking…

    Tom Waits
    Billy Joel
    Paul Simon
    Talking Heads
    Bruce Springsteen
    Cole Porter
    Nat King Cole
    The Gershwins

    In that league we literally only have David Bowie, and he’s gone to shit.

    • David,

      I would have to agree with you there wholeheartedly.
      America gave us all the nuggets era bands ala 13th Floor Elevators, Seeds, Electric Prunes and so on. Punk also started in the US with Stooges and MC5, as well as bands like Rocket From the Tombs, Mirrors and so on. Also don’t forget the CBGB’s stuff ala Television, Talking Heads, Ramones, Early Blondie. From there you had the much underrated US hardcore scene with bands like bad Brains, Minutemen, Black Flag, Husker Du to mention countless others. Whilst people in the UK were listening to toss like Adam Ant and Human League, (a few sensible people were listening to The Fall).

      Also early grunge before it got too commercial, decent indie courtesy of Shins, Decemberists and Rilo Kiley.

      Hands down America wins and yes Bowie sucks now and has done since the mid-80’s.

      Although that said I am going through a Kinks/Small Faces period at the moment, albeit balanced by Aussie legends The Lime Spiders and The Stems. Australia’s music scene is def worth checking out as well.

      • er guys aren’t you forgetting those lovable mop tops Lenin & McCarthy or whatever they were called… they wrote the odd decent tune.

  15. As for British Hip-Hop don’t get me started.

  16. Beatles are good, but I just can’t connect with them. I think Ray Davies/Steve Marriott were much better songwriters. I identify with their songs more.

  17. Yeah, I’m a bit indifferent to the beatles.

    Their stories and love songs are generally half-arsed and insincere. Largely, I imagine, because it is hard to have a relate-able to story/relationship scenario when you’re basically a deity.

  18. Bit harsh David. Wouldn’t go so far as to say insincere. I do like some of their music (mainly Revolver, The White album and rubber soul), but feel that they are overrated. It gets so boring having to hear the same old stories and songs over and over again. A definate case of overexposure.

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