l_6b75c4133ff8473081899a8b0b1185cfOver the last year or two Ive cut back on gig going, not because I enjoy live music any less, there’s just been other things I wanted to do more. For special bands though I’ll always try and make an effort.
So at the tail end of an 80 hour week of night shifts I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled bleary eyed across London to spend an hour in the company of the idiosyncratic David Shah aka The Melting Ice Caps.

As it turned out it was more like 20 minutes than an hour. When the doorman taking my 3 quid asked which of the six bands I’d come to see, I should have guessed something was amiss from his oddly sarcastic “lucky you” response to my answer.

But then anyone who’s listened to The Melting Ice Caps, or his previous band Luxembourg would expect nothing less of Shah than to translate the melodrama of his recorded output to his live performance. The five singles released by The Melting Ice Caps over the last year or so continue a fine English tradition of lyrical intelligence, angst, and song craft.   There’s a dollop of Stephen Morrissey and a hint of Hannon’s Divine Comedy in Shah’s tales of romantic misfortune. When the character in “A Good Night” questions whether Shoreditch people really are wankers before retreating home to re-evaluate his Pet Shop Boys album collection, its clear David may himself own a few Tennant/Lowe long-players.

It’s not just the influences that hark back to the 80’s/90’s, despite all bar one of the 5 singles being released solely as free MP3’s they return to a pre-digital time when you’d get your CD or 7″ home and be almost as excited about flipping it over to discover the B-side as you were the A. The Melting Ice Caps seem to have intentionally translated the 7″ A and B-side experience to the digital realm. Like Oasis (and this is the only similarity between the Caps and the bickering brothers) some of his best material is to be found on those “beautiful B’s“.
Arriving at the gig late, the set is already underway, and David’s bemoaning the nights organisers for being a total shambles.

The Good Ship in Kilburn has one of the most unusual stages in London, sunk down several feet below the rest of the venue. There’s room for maybe 20 in front of the stage, but everyone else leans over the banisters and admires the performers bald spots. I was going to compare it to a Victorian dog fighting pit, but I dont think they featured much oak or a “toilets this way” sign. It’s the first venue Ive been to where the band is invisible from 95% of the building.

Shah is alone on the stage, accompanied only by a DVD backing track with the video for each song projected onto a screen behind him. The gaps between songs are brief David explains gesturing at the DVD player because I’m being controlled by that machine.
Nevertheless he still finds time to loudly declare “I’m never playing this place ever again” between “Mise En Scene” and “Through A Prism“. The latter being the first and only time a lyric about not wanting to move to Poland has been set to a bosonova rhythm.

So it didn’t take you long
to get over me and act like nothing’s wrong.
Well, it makes me wonder if you ever cared.
” – “Hard To Get” by The Melting Ice Caps

Hard To Get” couldn’t sound more like the Pet Shop Boys if Shah had a morose bloke in an ill-fitting Issey Miyake jacket standing behind him prodding a Fairlight. Perfect timing given the Boys 20 year run of faultless pop lost its way a few albums ago, and shows little sign of returning. Shah emotes every lyric with a drama, as if the tiny stage were the Palladium, his voice soft at times, soaring at others with a mixture of torch singer and crooner akin to Marc Almond at his best. My favourite bit though is the shoe horned rhyming of his “local”, where he doesn’t drink as it messes with his “vocal”… pause “chords”. Its hard to explain why it’s so good, have a listen!

The Melting Ice Caps
/ Facebook / MeltingIceCaps.co.uk / Last.fm

The Melting Ice Caps – Selfish Bachelor” (MP3) – Highly Recommended
The Melting Ice Caps – A Good Night” (MP3) – Recommended too
The Melting Ice Caps – Hard To Get” (MP3) – You guessed it… Recommended

Download ALL 5 Melting Ice Caps singles so far for FREE inc. Artwork, videos, and B-Sides at the following pages:
Single 5 – “Being No One”
Single 4 – “Mise En Scene”
Single 3 – “Like A Souvenir / Birthmark”
Single 2 – “Selfish Bachelor”
Single 1 – “Hard To Get”

“The Soft Close-Ups” Myspace – David Shah’s other band
Luxembourg – David’s former band 2001-2008

A very nice set of pictures from the Good Ship, Kilburn gig

While changing DVD’s David apologises for clearly not being as cool as the previous band who were given “much longer than me“, and decries the place once more for not letting him do the advertised full set. From above the sound guy silently glares down fuming while the audience make gasping “ooooh he’s so naughty” faces and beam as the thudding bass of current single “Being No One” starts up (inexplicably not fighting Dizzee Rascal for the No.1 slot).

If you clap really loud they might let me play one more song… then you should all demand your money back

With a final swipe and the backing of as rapturous applause as 25 people can make, The Melting Ice Caps end the set with “Selfish Bachelor“, the diamond in a jewel encrusted crown of bittersweet pop songs. It sometimes feels as if Shah would be a star of Morrissey-esque proportions in era that treasured intelligence more. Even his DVD player seems to suggest he’d be better off a decade or two ago, flashing up “ALBA DVD” in huge lettering on the screen at one point (For readers under 30, Alba were the own-label badge of Dixons electronics in all 80’s/90’s). On the other hand Jarvis Cocker, the most recent erudite and witty lyricist/performer to be taken to the nations hearts toiled for 15 years in obscurity before being declared a national treasure!

Pointing to the projector screen David explains “I used to have a band called Luxembourg, and these are my scrapbook cuttings from then… this song is about me“. Delivered with Shah balancing atop a small bar stool “Selfish Bachelor” is as magnificent as it tragic, albeit with a knowing wink. “I don’t have a life and I don’t have a band anymore” he declares beautifully while behind him images of his former group flick across a stage set-up for a full band including a drum kit sat silently. The upside arrives with the thing most acts lack, the killer end line… “but I’ve got all these songs“!

Being No One (Video) by The Melting Ice Caps

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