In some ways Gary Le Strange is facing the Difficult Second Album syndrome. Waen Shepherd won the Perrier Best Newcomer award last year with his creation Le Strange, a musical wannabe twenty years too late, who shuns the obvious label "New Romantic" in favour of "Neo-Regency Face Warrior", and whose show is split between telling us of his life of non-achievement and singing fiendishly on-the-button musical parodies. Now he has to prove that the character has some longevity, and by and large he succeeds.
Part of me is disappointed that this year's songs aren't as specific in their targets as last year: instead of the Japan song, the Ultravox song(s), the Gary Numan song and so on, the Face Academy collection tends to be more generic, apart from a nod towards Soft Cell in one number and a David Bowie pisstake which is as densely allusive on its own as the entirety of his previous show. Interestingly, Le Strange himself now has his own vocal style: here a David Sylvian swoop, there a strangulated 1980s-Bowie howl, but it's beginning to coalesce into an identifiable musical persona.
His patter is delivered with more confidence, but still contains gems of meaningless banality such as "I'm a firm believer that music should be seen and not heard." There's no reason why Shepherd shouldn't be able to sustain Le Strange until the next economically powerful generation creates a demand for a parody rave/baggy rock star. And even then, we've already got Shaun Ryder.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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