Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny with Goodbye Lenin
Trof Grosvenor Street (The Deaf Institute), Manchester
Wednesday February 22, 2012
Even after so long spent waiting under a dark cloud of anticipation, Beth Jeans Houghton's recently-released and oddly-named longplayer 'Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose' does not disappoint. So even though it's still only February, hearing her and the Hooves of Destiny perform the record's many highlights might well just be one of 2012's most memorable musical moments.
This young Geordie lady can be compared without a hint of hyperbole to the most ambitious and eccentric songwriters of all time. How about David Bowie and Kate Bush, to name just two? For those who demand evidence to back up such a bold statement, songs such as 'Dodecahedron', 'Nightswimmer' and 'Honeycomb' should suffice.
She's so at ease as the centre of attention that she demands the Deaf Institute house lights be turned on to demonstrate the mesmerising dazzle of what might just be the biggest mirrorball in the known universe. When a lost capo forces her bandmates go rummaging backstage, she simply pauses to share an impromptu chat with her audience, offering advice on how to avoid being duped by British Gas salesmen and Topshop employees. And her quips are almost as captivating as her music.
Almost, but not quite. Even less outstanding numbers such as 'Franklin Benedict' are astounding tonight. She and the band have no need for samples, synthesisers or Apple Mac trickery. Her voice alone is as joyous and dizzying as a white knuckle ride.
It's been over eighteen months since the 'Hot Toast Volume One' EP first introduced Beth Jeans Houghton's talents to music lovers at large. Prolific she is not. In fact, she's been a "Next Big Thing" for so long that it's easy to forget she's still just 22. At least it is until she offers an anecdote about her teddy bear, or reveals a glimpse of her juvenile sense of humour: "Without counting, how many holes does a girl have, and how many holes does a boy have?", she smuttily asks by way of introducing B-side 'Your Holes'.
For reasons unknown, her name is mentioned far too frequently in the same sentences as Florence Welch and Laura Marling. Alas, she's so far ahead of even the most pioneering pop star or folky newcomer that unlike her two most often-cited contemporaries, she'll probably never decorate her mantlepiece with Brit Awards.
But ask yourself this: Are either of them very likely to ever bring down the house by inviting the support band (Birmingham quintet Goodbye Lenin, who are nowhere near as memorable as the similarly titled film) to perform backing vocals as they serenade a black baby doll with a superb cover version of Madonna's 'Like A Prayer'? No, and that's just one of many reasons why they lack Beth Jeans Houghton's truly unique and curious charms.