Online Music Editor Megan Frost reviews Scouting For Girls at The Lemon Grove
Entering with amber flashing lights upon evolutionary cut-outs, Strauss’ ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ plays Scouting For Girls onto the stage. Linking to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s theme of evolution, piano and clashing drums like clapping form a countdown. They open with ‘Grown Up’ – one fitting to the overall theme of evolution with repetitions of “I don’t want to be a grown-up”; essentially, an inversion to the evolution-process. Scouting For Girls embodies this; the evolutionary scale is even on their latest album cover. They refuse to reject the same fun-drenched, timeless songs they played ten years ago. They infuse this same energy even in their latest tracks and live. Brewing up to an electric guitar riff, it’s a fitting moment to greet the audience for the first time: “good to see you Exeter”.
Amidst the flickering warm hues, the song ends in a blackout – a stark feel of absence. But of course, this is a forgotten moment as they expediently move onto the next song. Their presence is felt again, even more so as they announce the audience as a “fifth member” and “choir” to the band. This is announced after playing ‘Heartbeat’, its titular being a beloved piece from their very first album, infused with a zesty beat of its own. ‘Heartbeat’ is perfectly executed to its recorded version, the only aspect missing from the recording is a few guitar riffs that occur after the chorus; luckily, piano occupies this absence. Drum rolls unwind after each “I do love/ She does heartbreak” until a dwindled-down end in the lines “skip a heartbeat for you”. ‘Love How It Hurts’ also slightly differs to its recording, piano again replaces some of its violin riffs and it seems more fast-paced. Its bridge has a slightly more haunting twinge, with bass and more echoic guitar to its “walked in past”.
Scouting For Girls truly invert the evolutionary-scale and embrace nostalgia
So far, the performance has been mainly electric, but they move on to hints of upbeat acoustic. With a single strum of an acoustic guitar, the band speak about their latest album. They announce the album’s titular track, one dedicated to anyone – in spite of its title – who “has had too much to drink”. ‘The Trouble with Boys’ begins acoustic, electric guitar takes over, and then the audience takes over by forming an echo to the riffs. At first, its message is jumbled as it seems focused on “boys will be boys” antic, despite saying it was for “anyone”. The song embraces stereotypes in order to overcome them. Shouting about how “boys” do not wish to “talk about it”, the song becomes a hue-and-cry filled again with energy.
Flicking between their most recent to their first album in the very first two songs they play, Scouting For Girls truly invert the evolutionary-scale and embrace nostalgia. Before playing the 2008 song ‘Posh Girls’, they say it probably isn’t lyrically fitting for 2019; yet, they still play it because they know it will always be timeless as a tune itself. It is repetitious in the best way, as volcanic riffs erupt then plunge in a lighter section with choppy drums as the main vocalist Roy Stride tells us of ‘Jamie on the Box’ – the lead-guitarist who is too modest to stand on the box when unleashing riffs.
“At the other end of this spectrum is a love song” we’re told. The next piece is based on one of the band’s early warm-up tours in Scotland where a couple got engaged. If we weren’t told the story, we’d think it personal as ‘Millionaire’ is touching. Yet, it’s still fun with repeated backing vocals and playful rhymes like “Walk in the park, a kiss in the dark” meeting more humble undertones of “Best things in life don’t come with a price”. Preceding choruses, drum rolls lap the song back into laidback verses – they stroll into the time-lapse story. At one point, the song switches to the classic rhythm-and-blues song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’; it’s a way of injecting fun into a more heart-warming piece, but only momentarily so as ‘Millionaire’ plays out its own ending.
Like ‘Millionaire’, ‘Sweet Love’ sounds personal; except it does not just sound it, but it is. Yet, played in such an external setting, it almost becomes relatable as it is so repetitive and infectious. ‘Sweet Love’ is more relaxing compared to their fast-paced riffs, yet ironically it is the one played with the snappiest ending. Across the entire performance, Scouting For Girls really draw out their endings with punchy strums and drumrolls. ‘Sweet Love’ and its short-ending seems more fitting as it has no energy left to burn out.
Repetitions, repeated playful rhymes, repeated audience call-and-responses, and repeated beloved hits
Back on the evolution-process, Scouting For Girls delve back to 2010 hit ‘Famous’ from Everybody Wants To Be On TV. It’s played with a surging rhythm with a disco-like beat. Stride holds out a selfie-stick on his phone, a camera pointed at the audience relating to the idyllic dream of “everybody wants to be on TV”. Likewise, ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ integrates technology and its ability to transform figures, the notion of Elvis being alive as he was heard “on the radio” is like us alive on Stride’s camera. Interweaving Elvis Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’, just like how they previously switched ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ into ‘Millionaire’, the audience and band are split into two sides singing both songs. Except, instead of ‘Hound Dog’, Elvis’ ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’ is played. The split between past and present is integrated, and so are we as an audience. Even ‘I Wish I Was James Bond’ has a snippet of the James Bond theme tune, with heavy drums leading into sliding guitar riffs, integrating a famous figure into their own music.
‘This Ain’t a Love Song’ is also played, with its lines “This ain’t a love song, this is goodbye” being particularly fitting before announcing how one of their last songs played is both a way of saying goodbye and a way of saying thank you – much like the bittersweet ‘This Ain’t a Love Song’. They finish playing their new Christmas song out which involves audience participation again, alongside with probably their most-loved ‘She’s So Lovely’ as the finale.
“Exeter, can we do this again sometime?” is a question posed on the concept of the “again”. This is like Scouting For Girls’ repetitions, repeated playful rhymes, repeated audience call-and-responses, and repeated nostalgia. Yet, this is interwoven with some of their newer songs. Ones of which, in the future, will hopefully be repeated themselves.