The Nines, Peckham – 24th Nov
Max Pope does a really fun gig. That puts him a little apart from his hyper-sincere, social justice focused neighbours in the SE postcodes who have a penchant for singing gloomy civil rights ballads. Max Pope, by contrast gave us an adorable Mr Sandman cover. That kinda says it all.
Superfood fans will feel right at home in at one of these shows: songs that focus on bite-sized pieces of a lazy human existence, performed to the kind of people who know a thing or two about how to enjoy a lazy human existence – all with a healthy dose of ‘90s revivalism and outfits that hit on a dozen cultural touchstones.
More than anything, it is the sincerity of Pope’s enthusiastic brand of poppy guitar music that shines through. It’s really undoubtable. Transferring that authenticity from performance to recordings has proved a little tricky, however. When those old-school organs and almost doo-wop backing vocals are viewed without the filer of charm Pope exudes on stage, they can turn from cheeky to cheesy faster than you can say “London’s answer to Mac Demarco”.
That changed with the release of Didn’t I, a cover good enough to have Darondo looking anxiously over his shoulder. Oh yes. It’s been a busy, successful 2016 for Max Pope, and this gig’s attendees were given a preview of the year’s final release: a song called The Operator which was released the day after the show.
The song is a vignette of a manipulative relationship with a hum-it-on-the-way-home chorus. Even this one sounds way better live, with backing vocals comically performed by collaborator and bill-sharer Alex Burey.
On the night, Pope shared a stage with musicians from enough bands to put on a small festival (you’ll probably catch them all at Peckham Fest this summer). Puma Blue, Shivum Sharma and former Hester-ites were all there incognito: hidden under different stage names, guises and musical sizes.
As a local, it’s great to see: all but the most cynical Southwark resident couldn’t help but be a little proud of this exciting scene with its “you play my band, she’ll play in his band” kind of ethos – an ethos best demonstrated in Pope’s video for Less Than Nothing, which is populated by many of his musical peers.
It’s a crowd as turbulent and as creative as you’d expect a big group of talented young art school students running around, fucking each other and then writing about it to be. But it’s also friendly, fun and pretty well-dressed, so let’s give it some love and make it grow a little, hey?
Listen: Max Pope – Less Than Nothing EP.