Taking The Peth: Rhys Ifans vs. Paddy Considine As Rock ‘N’ Roll Singers

Welsh "shagger" Rhys Ifans of The Peth and "workman like" Midlands bloke Paddy Considine of Riding The Low go head to head in our one hundred percent spurious battle of the bands. (Which was tested with good humour by Jeremy Allen.)

Human beings are more complex creatures than we often allow them to be. The innate sense in us all to do something different often perplexes those around us, who’d sooner have us contextualised and pigeonholed. Boys will be girls and girls will be boys, it’s a mixed-up, muddled up, shook up world. Bono wants to be a politician, Sting an environmentalist, Bruce Dickinson a pilot and champion fencer, and you no doubt wanted to be an astronaut or a train driver, and still secretly hanker for such unbridled excitement as you enter the meeting room carrying a tray of teas. Musicians and actors are no different, they want to be each other, and you have to ask the question ‘why not?’ Since the day Jesus decided to ignore his career advisor’s salutary recommendation to stick to carpentry, people the world over have served more than one master.

Rock stars of the 50s, 60s and 70s couldn’t get enough of this performance cross dressing; in fact for acts like Elvis, Cliff and the Beatles it was obligatory to "act". The scrutiny has always been unreasonably and unfathomably intense for trading the seedy environs of the recording pit to airily tread the boards. While Mick Jagger put in steady performances in Performance and Ned Kelly, all that good work was obliterated by Freejack. And while David Bowie was otherworldly in The Man Who Fell To Earth and commanding in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, many only remember him creepy in tights, donning a Spagna frightwig and wailing accompanied by a bunch of fucking muppets in Labyrinth. It seems somewhat harsh, and yet it’s difficult to feel much sympathy. ["Blasphemy! Guards – throw him in an oubliette!" Ed.]

In recent years this trend has reversed, and it’s actors now who want to be taken seriously as musicians. And guess what, they’re usually met with the same force of derision and howling indifference in the process. Worse still, many actors have faced the ignominy of being ignored completely. Who remembers or can even honestly say they’ve heard a note of Keanu Reeves’ Dogstar, Russell Crowe’s 30 Odd Foot of Grunts or John Simm’s defunct Magic Alex?

But why all the negativity? Jared Leto has sold two million records with the more-than-competent-at-what-they-do Thirty Seconds To Mars, and P featuring Johnny Depp and Gibby Haynes were, whisper it, quite good. Juliette Lewis hasn’t put her Hollywood career on the backburner due to a lack of offers, and while the Licks haven’t quite made an essential record yet, Lewis’ commitment to the rock’n’roll cause suggests it is possible and hopefully imminent. And who knows what delights the musical collaboration between Joaquim Phoenix and Tim Burgess might offer up?

Which brings us to two modern titans of British film, cult darling Paddy Considine, and the Welsh born bon viveur and tabloid favourite Rhys Ifans, who are both currently in new rock outfits. Considine is De Niro to much-lauded Brit auteur Shane Meadow’s Scorsese, giving a towering/harrowing performance in Meadow’s masterpiece Dead Man’s Shoes, and a mesmeric turn in the adorably quirky and Mike Leigh-like A Room For Romeo Brass. Ifans too, is one of the most talented actors of his generation, but is probably better known as a bit of a shagger. Interestingly, to give some previous to this contest, and it is a contest, Ifans was the star of one of Meadow’s less favourably received offerings Once Upon A Time In The Midlands, branded ‘lightweight’ by some critics, who may have alluded to the fact it was because Considine wasn’t in it. Oof! Here we go, it’s Blur vs Oasis all over again…

The Peth, it has to be said, have their moments, but they’re usually when Ifans isn’t involved. Sienna Miller’s former boyfriend brings publicity to the act, but comes out looking rather like the posh kid who gets to be in the band because his dad can drive them to gigs in his Land Rover Discovery. There’s delicious genre-hopping invention here, diminished by Ifan’s unwelcome crass lyrical banality and stupidity (one of the songs is called ’69 Fanny Street’). ‘The Golden Mile’ veers from early Super Furries experimentalism to proto-80’s electro that sounds unerringly like Arcadia. There are some unspeakably awful moments, like the sub-‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ with half-arsed crunchy Stones riffs that is ‘Honey, Take a Bow’, and ‘Let’s Go Fucking Mental’ is the least fucking mental song you’re ever likely to hear, but on the whole it’s cheering, and might benefit were they to sack the leading man.

You’d be unlikely to expect any swaggering, Dom Pérignon-quaffing pomposity from Riding the Low given Considine’s gritty Burton on Trent roots, and you’d be right. He may have been in an Arctic Monkey’s video, and Dead Man’s Shoes might have been distributed by Warp Films, but that’s pretty much where the glamour ends. The actor even plays with his former bandmate Richard Eaton from their old group She Talks to Angels who no doubt "frequently play[ed] gigs around the Midlands and further afield," like Riding the Low’s Wikipedia entry says they do. I’m slightly saddened to report that while Considine is one of the most gifted actors Britain has to offer, as a singer he’d not stand out on a drizzly Tuesday evening at the Hope and Anchor. Riding the Low are a workman-like band with lots of integrity, but ultimately they sound like a bunch of mates with big dreams without the pizazz to lift them above the myriad of pub rock outfits that litter the toilet circuit.

So who wins? Well, everybody wins. It would be easy to sneer and say ‘don’t give up the day job’, but everyone has the right to form a band and express themselves, actors, politicians, Christians, farmers, murderers, pederasts, people who make elastic band balls for a living, the bloke who holds up the Golf Sale sign on Oxford Street… and some of them will be good, and others will be very, very bad. And some might even straddle the heights of competence. It just seems thus far that most thespians have fluffed their lines.

The Peth ‘Let’s Go Fucking Mental’ A load of arse?

Riding The Low ‘Don’t They Know I Hurt?’ Throwing a Paddy.

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