I Am Vexed gig review Jan 2009 Bull & Gate on Jan 5 2009
Jacob Tree

Some people say that as the stock market sinks, the currency of popular music rises. If this is true then 2009 will be a good year for music, and my first gig of the year was a good omen. As the economy folds inelegantly around us I like to think that the current tolerance for contrived bands who tour with their personal stylists and are celebrities before they are musicians will finally come to an end. That is when people will find time for bands like brotherly duo I Am Vexed.

The Hobbs brothers are too young to be cynical and too happy to be celebrities. You know they don't see the songs as an extension of some screwed up life in the public eye, and you know they can't possibly sit around in Shoreditch bars discussing how to appeal to the kids, because they are the kids. What they make is popular music, and they make it because they want to.

Like all good pop music there's nothing over-complicated going on here: the songs are light-hearted and they have tunes and choruses. If the guitar suddenly kicks in with a good riff that's because it's fun to do, not because it will appeal to a certain market. The fact that there are only two of them confirms their love of the music itself it seems that the music came before the formation of a band.

The songs are quirky tales and commentary on teenage life. Unlike older bands pretending to be teenagers there are no wrong notes struck if a song descends into silliness, that's because it's meant to, not because the thirty-year-old lead singer couldn't see the absurdity of writing about their first girlfriend as though it still hurts. If a hint of angst comes through, it's not contrived, it's just what they felt like when they wrote the song.

On stage there's also no acting necessary, though there is stage presence. Ben is unshowily confident with both vocals and guitar but somehow more watchable is Bruno, who still seems nervous to be up there singing in front of all those people but whose delivery shines through more strongly for it. His spoken style is sometimes a quieter Eddie Argos of Art Brut, but lacking the pretence at representing the kids. These are just songs. It's just music. Heartfelt pop tunes that aren't designed by a marketing department. You get the feeling the Hobbs brothers wrote these songs because that's what they wanted to hear. If all that awaits you when you leave school or university this year is the dole queue, then perhaps this is what you'll want to hear too, because style pop will begin to grate when the bands' stylists earn more than you do. I Am Vexed welcome you to 2009: the year we kill cynicism in music.