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Heloise and the Savoir Faire

Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
4 stars
As befits a band from New York who play a song called Downtown, Heloise and the Savoir Faire are impeccably connected, and their mix of art-house cool and showbiz glitz must have Andy Warhol watching over them with gosh-gee pride. The boss of their record label, Simian, after all, is some-time big-screen hobbit Elijah Wood, who makes an incongruous cameo on debut album, Trash, Rats and Microphones, alongside the Big Apple’s original glam queen, Deborah Harry of Blondie. In UK terms, appearances on The Graham Norton Show and The Friday Night Project don’t quite match up, which may be why they haven’t crossed over in the same way superficial kindred spirits Scissor Sisters took the world by storm. Judging by the power and pizzazz of this mini tour which shimmies into London next week, however, it’s just a matter of time.

Sporting a gold lame mini dress topped by a shock of blonde hair that makes her look even larger than life than she is, Heloise Williams leads her troupe of well-turned-out social deviants through a set of post-punk gay disco cabaret that could have sashayed straight off a fashion week catwalk. With Korg-playing dance-master Joe Shepard and pint-sized foil Sara Sweet clad in an eye-catching array of spangly hot-pants, DIY tiaras, Playboy t-shirts and indecently figure-hugging leggings, their dead-pan shape-throwing routines make for some floor-show, especially when Williams joins in with unabashed gusto.

Behind the front-line is a funkily well-oiled guitar/bass/drums power trio, whose choppy licks fuel the machine only a tad generically. On top of all this is Williams’ forceful fog-horn voice, a full-throated marvel that would leave Beth Ditto out of breath yet retains a smidgen of B-52s style mischief. With a late-night audience perhaps expecting an altogether smoother sound than something so in their faces, the dance-floor doesn’t move as much as it should. Not that the band back off in any way, mind.

It does, however, make one wonder whether in such a fast-moving scene, Williams may have already missed her moment. By rights, she should, and hopefully will, be sassing it up alongside the current crop of female artists about to elbow the army of skinny indie-boy bands off-stage. In the meantime, given the cosiness of the venue, Heloise and the Savoir Faire should be seized upon as a slice of New York’s underground squatting in a home from home they’ll be moving on up from any day now.

At 444@The Rainbow, Birmingham, January 30; The Monarch, London, January 31; Moles, Bath, February 1; 93 Feet East, London, February 2; Korova, Liverpool, February 3

Intended for The Guardian, February 2009, but never published



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