Blasting their way through a set that seemed far too short, Ikara Colt commanded the stage at Maxwell’s in Hoboken in a way that made the rather unmoving audience look like a collection of confused mannequins interspersed with bobblehead dolls. Once singer Paul Resende brandished his mike, his straight hair flopping Strokes-style over his eyes, and launched into a snarl of Fall-like lyrics inflected with just the right touch of adolescent annoyance, he became pivotal and a vortex of charisma. There is undeniable chemistry and something quite haunting in both Resende’s voice and lyrics. Flanked by John Ball’s flailing bass and Claire Ingram’s ever-so plucky lead guitar, each doing their part to send music spilling all about, he launched into a set which included a good percentage of the band’s debut CD, Chat and Business, including their so-called manifesto, “Sink Venice”.
This was only the second night of Ikara Colt’s first American tour, a 40-day, 40-night loop of America lying ahead of them half-noose and half-enticement. The first night had gone well, “But tonight will be better,” insisted Ingram, cute and tough as a gal on the road with all these guys ought to be. Before the show Ikara Colt drummer Dom Young spent a fair bit of time sitting on the floor as roadies ran hither and yon, and an audience who had come primarily to see the girl band, Sahara Hotnights, milled about and asked, “Who are these guys anyway?” As bassist Bull, known for his wild stage presence, took a break from his pre-show beer to cheerfully sell a Sahara Hotnights T-shirt to a plumpish and pallid post-adolescent with black lipstick, he told me his frustration with being given tickets for drinks. In England it seems the band was given full bottles and he was the band member who benefited most. “It’s a bit puritanical here, isn’t it?” he queried. Unperturbed by their relative obscurity in the US, the band seemed excited about playing Maxwell’s; this is the kind of small club that art punks Ikara Colt love: “I mean that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”
In addition to getting more booze in England, Ikara Colt has also achieved a certain level of notoriety, what with two riots breaking out on one of their tours and a banned CD to their credit. Of course, Chat and Business was banned by the Brits because stickers were enclosed with the CD, not because of any radicalism in the music. A band alternately lambasted for sounding too much like Sonic Youth or for being tuneless, Ikara Colt have been called an intelligent version of the Strokes, but their music is far more interesting while just as angsty. In that time-honored tradition of angry youth rock, the band met in art school, where lead guitarist Claire Ingram went for the sole purpose of getting a band together. Taken up by British DJ John Peel, they almost immediately signed with a little label, Fantastic Plastic. “We went out and cut a couple of singles and we did an album and then Epitaph came knocking at the door,” said Bull, remembering it all as if it were just a year or so ago.
On stage, the energy of the band couldn’t compensate for the inertia of the audience, though in a more crowded Maxwell’s, or perhaps with a crowd who had the vaguest sense of what to expect, things might have been different. The songs tended to blur together a bit, especially if you were standing, as I was, next to the speakers. I have become quite attached to the songs, so I was sorry not to hear them more clearly. Next time would I stand back and sacrifice the intensity for superior sound quality. I expect that it’ll be more difficult to get as close to the stage next time Ikara Colt comes to town, but I know I’ll certainly make the effort.