While performing his band's recent semi-hit "The Honeythief" at the Roxy on Thursday, Hipsway singer Grahame (Skin) Skinner danced around patting his head and rubbing his tummy at the same time. Not exactly an astounding feat, but it was about the most impressive endeavor of the evening for this Glasgow band.
Though at times Skinner's gawky mannerisms and vocals seemed quite endearing, they weren't enough to compensate for the lack of distinctiveness in the pleasant but rudimentary funk/pop material and arrangements.
In fact, the highlights of the 70-minute set were borrowed from outside sources: the guitar lick from Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun," which put over a light salsa rhythm in the middle of one number, and quotes from Doors and Talking Heads lyrics in another. Most exciting was the uncharacteristically punchy encore of Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People."
In the band's favor, the set was marked by an absence of pretensions and a sense of unforced purity in the music--i.e., a non-techno guitar/keyboard/bass/percussion approach. But, given the number of other Brit bands mining similarly conservative neo-soul territory 10 years after the punk revolution, this came off as just another case of complacency in the U.K.
Second-billed 13 Frightened Women is actually just one quite comfortable looking woman, Sumishta Brahm, whose lovely songs and singing compare quite favorably with Suzanne Vega's.