Xmal Deutschland, All About Eve: The Underground, Croydon, London


MESSY BEAT angel Christopher Roberts gets run over by a car in Paris’ historic Le Boulevard Victor Hugo and wakes up in a hospital reciting Baudelaire’s Remords Posthume, also insisting, “lemme make it to the Xmal gig on the morrow”. Then he faints again, but makes it.

So, 24 hours later, in a dark dank corner of Croydon, Surrey, two fatally lapsed pop groups don’t come quite as close to total poetry or the heart of the hurricane, but life’s no bowl of fireworks, not all the time.

Meanwhile, these two pop groups, sultry and shameless, shake a wicked hip and yearn to be cold, remote and unattainable. They are all these things but how much more? Beat Angel might be rubbing his stitches and claiming that this year’s Xmal are the most beautiful pop group in the world but I don’t hold truck with any of it. I watch them throw thunderous shapes at the sky and halfway through the frigid but fraught ‘Polaricht’, I realise they look, just look, like angels, the lot of them, but seem too bothered with private claustrophobia to move me a single inch. Xmal’s icy remoteness is often the most interesting point about them, invariably more consuming than their ongoing grind of glacial noise.

When Xmal get fraught and frightened, as in ‘Jahrumjahr’ or the encore ‘Paho Mondlicht’, they can be more than a dry cough, just hinting at some of the most intent post-Banshees smog, but then I wonder how far it has all come since the dusky ‘Fetisch’ of three years back. Xmal are cherubims, all five of them, but they make music so knowingly glum, so hung with despondency. They’re sympathising with our mopes when they could be busy shagging our brains out.

All About Eve suffer from similar diseases, but their hang-ups are less deep-rooted. The singer performs miracles but these are messed by the rockist tarts that surround her. The solution is in sight though.

Two pop groups, not just part of the endless gurgle, no more than that, but less heroic than the bedside Baudelaire. That’s understandable, brilliantly frivolous.

© Jon WildeSounds, 27 September 1986

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