Charlotte Hatherley
@ Leeds Cockpit

The charming Charlotte is playing the Rocket Bar, the smaller of The Cockpit’s two rooms. Must be a bit strange after the big venues she’s played with Ash. Here she is launching fully solo, with a second album and leaving Ash after ten years. And she’s still only 28.

First up is the new single – Chinese Burn – and the sound is immediately awful. It’s a toppy, tinny racket that fails to inspire. Instead of being shaken by the sound, the crowd is immobile, applauding when the song ends. The guitarist stares grimly ahead, punctuating riffs with pushes forward. The bass rocks back on his heels, nodding to the beat. There’s a piano tucked away at the back that adds infrequent breaks, sadly low in the mix; they add a good deal to the sound when you can hear them. The drumming is strong and firm. Charlotte moves around the mic stand, weaving, telling a tale (lots of her tunes are story songs). She has artfully dishevelled her hair from the groomed appearance she had earlier backstage. She chats and introduces songs – it’s hard to faze a woman who has co-fronted Ash.

What this band really needs is a singer. Charlotte plays a great, stinging guitar but a little girl voice works for, say, Charlotte Gainsbourg but not rock and roll. I can hear the band working towards a jam groove in each song that is testament to the rock they could make if they weren’t tied into the 4 minute rock song ethos. On the one occasion they let themselves stretch it out, they work the groove well. The other thing the band needs is a songwriter! The material lacks shape, like the wishy-washy album. This is a good band in search of good stuff to play. I’ve got nothing against cover versions if the band brings something new and strong, like I suspect these can.

Charlotte runs through first single Bastardo, lamenting the lothario who robbed her guitar before breaking for a two song encore. The second of the tunes is This Is Pop “by Alan Partridge, no,….. Andy Partridge – I wrote a song with him in the album”. The XTC tune is the best song of the night and just underlines the under-use of this strong band because we don’t value anything but original material.

Ross McGibbon