Live Review

Casual Sex, The Social, London

A bit of messy fun for one night. A musical booty call, if you will.

A tiny, sweaty basement venue such as tonight’s seems like the perfect setting for a Casual Sex show. Dark and dirty with an air of mystery, it’s the sort of place you imagine Edwyn Collins and Orange Juice may have cut their teeth in late 70s Glasgow.

And as they saunter on stage sporting smart, super tight, buttoned-to-the-top shirts, and messy, just-got-out-of-bed hairstyles, it looks as though they’ve also mastered the ‘recently sacked estate agent’ look that their musical heroes wore so well. “We are Casual Sex”, mumbles vocalist Sam Smith in a barely comprehensible Glaswegian accent, wasting no time before launching into their brand of fuzzy, guitar-driven disco pop.

Angular and brilliantly messy guitar riffs mesh over super tight drum grooves, conjuring memories of ‘Silent Alarm’-era Bloc Party, whilst singer Sam Smith’s deep, playful vocals bring up the inevitable likening to Alex Kapranos’ pseudo-crooner stylings. While such comparisons are undoubtedly warranted, Casual Sex posess rougher, edgier punk tendencies in their songs that distance them from their musical counterparts. ‘National Unity’ is a perfect example of this. Heavier and more distorted than is suggested on the recording, it sees the band at their most ferocious live and successfully convinces the crowd to loosen up and dance.

Recent single ‘Stroh 80’ showcases the band’s funkier side, with its bob-along beat and hand-clapping hoopla forging a brilliant combination with Smith’s particularly Bowie-esque vocals. Smith glares at the crowd all the while with an unwavering intensity that is equal parts terrifying and alluring.

However, while the energy and attitude thrive in the live setup and are damn good fun and all, the subtleties of proper songwriting are somewhat lost. And this is where the comparisons to Orange Juice and Franz begin to ring untrue. Where are the memorable melodies? Where are the sing-along choruses? Where’s their ‘Rip It Up’?

The shouty chorus of ‘Soft School’ is probably the closest they come, and is the high point of their set tonight. Lyrically intriguing and instantly catchy, the crowd latch on to it and, if we’re not mistaken, even sing along at one point. We stand corrected. But this is exactly the sort of thing Casual Sex should be delivering with more regularity. Far too often their songs start with great promise before meandering off into something slightly directionless, leaving the crowd a bit lost and unsatisfied.

And in that sense, Casual Sex live up to their name. A bit of messy fun for one night. A musical booty call, if you will. But if you’re looking for a deeper, longer lasting romance, you may want to search elsewhere.

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