Alien Tango @ Moth Club, London 22.10.22

Currently headlining Wembley in an alternate reality: a maximalist mix of old-skool rock star charisma and pulsating disco transcendence

Oct 25th, 2022 at Moth Club, London / By Ben Wood
Alien Tango The perfect mash-up of old-school working man's club and post-ironic East London sleaze pit, Hackney's Moth Club is festooned with genuine military insignia and kit probably purloined from an old BBC studio somewhere, and liberally sprayed with gold paint. Like if the Kinks and The Mighty Boosh had a baby...

Quirky, tacky and FUN FUN FUN, the venue is a visual invitation to a good time. It suits two of the three bands on the bill perfectly.

Openers Human Music may be only three singles in, but their mates and camp followers have brought the party with them. The band's eclectically funky, sporadically rockin', tight but joyously messy sound throws the kitchen sink into the mixer... then keeps on adding extra stuff.

Ignore the terrible name, this lot are great fun. At some point they may be well-advised to work out whether they want to be Faith No More, Lonely Island or just a prolonged, stoned in-joke but at the moment, they are having a ball and it's contagious.

Two charismatic lead singers spur the crowd on and play way too much cowbell (always a plus, imho). Gorgeous multi-part harmonies turn up unexpectedly. Easy targets (Elon Musk, Donald Trump, social media vapidity) are entertainingly skewered. Self-indulgence is positively encouraged (the keys player dons pretend dog ears for a baffling between-songs sketch, f'rinstance, and there's also a drifty jam about space travel). The final tune is played against the express request of the promoter (they went down a storm but came on late and over-ran).

Clarity and ambition are supposed to be the key characteristics for your modern, careerist indie troupe. This lot know that's all bollocks - rock 'n' roll is supposed to be wild, life-affirming and a bit stoopid. Job done. Don't ever grow up, Human Music (but maybe change your name, huh?!).

Bollards also have a terrible name, but that's where the similarities end. Boasting prog-level musicianship (often a mixed blessing), they have their moments but never got the memo about fun and seem to have wandered in from another bill.

An austere, five-piece in boilersuits, they intersperse moody post-punk grooves with austere stentorian vocals, with the occasional welcome danceable bit. The overall effect is more admirable than enjoyable. However, it's impressive in a moody, sixth-form goth way, a big sound built for big venues.

The fun returns (and how) for tonight's joyously OTT headliner, natural-born star Alberto Garcia, aka Alien Tango. Currently residing in London and about to release his first album, the expat Spaniard looks about nine stones dripping wet and carries himself like he's playing Wembley Stadium. After years spent honing his glammy, eccentric, bedroom pop, he now has a shit-hot live band. They seem to be loving the experience as much as we are, the guitarist constantly grinning from ear to ear.

Garcia is resplendent in a two-piece gold suit that may well have been rustled up from a pair of curtains. Proudly front and centre, our main man plays synth and theremin when not emoting for his life.

The 70s' biggest gestures are mined for every inch of sexy, ridiculous impact. Sparks-style baroque glam-pop; singalong choruses the size of planets; disco falsetto vocals, bustling basslines and soaring arpeggios that Sylvester would covet, all present and correct.

It's an intriguing alchemy. On record, the heavily accented vocals and frankly preposterous lyrics ('This is the day I have lots of sex' exults Sexy Time. Yes, really) can make it seem like he's taking the piss. But somehow, the undeniable star quality and total commitment make it work, in spades, live.

This is a very rich cake that won't be to everyone's taste: many will gonna find this music tastelessly bombastic. But as Marcel Duchamp said, taste is the enemy of art.

By the end, the crowd is going nuts. Scott Walker-style crooning, love God vibes, squelchy funk: it's all here, and often in the space of the same song.

Arms wave to the refrain of 'We are golden / we can live forever...' Have we drunk the Kool-Aid? Is this all a bad-taste joke? Still not entirely sure but anyone who can serenade a small club with a rendition of Happy Birthday worthy of the great Freddie himself, is a stadium rock natural.

Music can speak to the soul and all that jazz, but it's also supposed to be entertaining. It's showbiz, baby. It's heartening that two of these bands recognise this simple human truth. A splendid time was guaranteed for all.