Ipso Facto + HTRK + ROMANCE
Queen of Hoxton, London
24th July 2009

Who said ROMANCE is dead? Well, they should be. This London quartet are an unfunny joke. No, I laughed. I’m sorry. It was funny. This peroxide midget in tight pants foaming about the stage like Pete Burns meets Axl Rose in a glam-rock wet dream. “Picture Frame” with its “take my picture” lyrics elicited camera flashes from stooges planted in the crowd, but vocalist Jamie Lovatt with his Ian Astbury croon gave visions of The Cult circa “Electric” without anything close to “Love Removal Machine” in their repertoire. Samantha Valentine of Ipso Facto lurches around on bass pulling princess-like poses while the rest of the band crash and bang and sprawl across the stage. It’s a living, I suppose.

HTRK returned from torturing the kiddies supporting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs across Europe (oh to be a fly on the wall) to inflict a Berlin wall of fog on the crowd. I don’t know what stinks more – their smoke machine or their no-disco dro… Oh, I’m kidding. If Romance is dead, then HTRK is its lifeless corpse. The intense white haze did much to obscure a flat-lined stage presence that could only be livened up by vocalist Jonnine Standish beating the front row in the head with her shaker than the floor tom. They shouldn’t be a live band. They shouldn’t be alive band. HTRK’s soul is rotten to the core. Afterward, you feel so dirty you just want to take a shower.

Ipso Facto recently trimmed the fat, excising keyboardist Cherish Kaya in favour of the perfect rock triangle. The sound is now suitably streamlined, focused and finessed — the girls now move like well-oiled, well-coiled machine, except when technology interferes and their replacement to Kaya (otherwise known as the Apple Macbook) powers down. What would/could be seen in good humour is reduced to a hissy fit, the band pushing through the crowd as if they were direct descendants to the Moses family line. Humility and patience, ladies. Despite all, I can’t stress how improved the band are. The brief set was an example of ‘out with the old, in with the new’, only “Balderdash” taken from their debut single remains, introduced by Rosie as “the song we love to hate”, the cuckoo-call vocals and squiggly guitar figure drawing a firm line down the middle that separates the old Ipso Facto from the new.

“Queen Sophia The Last”, a song that has stuck in my memory since our last encounter is apparently earmarked for their next single. An unrecorded veteran from the quartet days, the song has since been disassembled and put together again, this time with a ‘rap’, for want of a better word, thrown in the middle. Still their ace in the hole, “Queen Sophia” swings like a ballroom skirt with a jazz beat and an insidiously slick guitar riff from Rosie, her vocal delivery seductive and sharp. Their sweeping harmonies on Lesley Gore’s feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me” underline the obvious — these girls are no fools. Ipso Facto are the mistresses of reinvention. Amazing really how maths comes into music. You subtract a member and gain a band.