Wolf Alice might have their well deserved Mercury Prize nomination under their belt but North London compatriots Real Lies (Kev Kharas, Tom Watson, Rart Kong) are a band that reflect their neighborhood with pinpoint accuracy. Even if the anachronism time period of their electronic pop/alternative dance sound and grainy dated music videos (“Dab Housing“) – reminiscent of The Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, New Order and even East 17’s “House of Love” at one point – as well as the confrontational album cover, could easily place them in Shane Meadow’s This is England ’90 – all be it set in Holloway.
It helps when the band don’t reference zeitgeist pop culture throughout their biographical debut Real Life. Lad-ish, skinny, naturally spotty and dressed in polo shirts whilst displaying an enthusiasm for foreign football – Italian club S.S.C Napoli appear in their narratives visually and lyrically (“Run like Christian Maggio”) – Real Lies transparently target the ignored and adrift youth of London’s outskirts, becoming truth-telling spokesmen of their woes in the confusing “decade of no name” (“Seven Sisters“) via their frank observations and Jonathan Glazer style voyeurism through the night streets of Brent Cross and Arnos Grove.
That moment of melancholy after a hangover describes the trio’s paraphrased loops, lyrical content and their methodology process, as songs were written the morning after long-lasting house parties in Manor House. Broken pieces of memory, including the rave tunes that blasted the speakers, as well as the social occurrences were woven together to document a specific lifestyle. “World Peace” expands upon the stuttering keyboards on Jean Luc Ponty’s “Computer Incantations of World Peace” – which could be a song that the band’s sampler maestro Rart Kong subconsciously heard one night – completing it with a flawless “West End Girls” meets early 1990’s video game Streets of Rage 2 euphoria.
Although it’s an infectious highlight of Real Life, it’s a slight misnomer composition wise, because it’s one of the few tracks that doesn’t feature Kev Kharas’ spoken word prose. In a similar vein to Mike Skinner, without the in-your-face-on-the-edge-of-anarchy accent and Ghostpoet minus the stretched end of the line vocal delivery, this is the component that will really connect with their contingent. The ambient-house track “North Circular” romanticises the unique bypass that connects the hidden suburbs of London – the murky parts of a underachiever’s playground yuppies pretend don’t exist – name dropping monuments famous to residents such as “Suicide Bridge” (Archway) and a closed down Irish Times shop.
Colloquial expressions such as “have you got light?” infiltrate the regret-filled and telling-how-it-is “Blackmarket Blues“, which confront the listener with disapproval and frustration at their drunken 5AM vicious cycle antics (but this could easily be self-lamenting), with its detailed descriptions proving effective to its cause. Yet like any group of glued together mates, Real Lies pair refusal-nodding with I’ve-got-your-back trust on the throwback Madchester-mimic “One Club Town“: “I’ll be there with you whenever you need me…” – a track that will likely to cause flashbacks to ageing audiences.
Decisively and unashamedly, Real Lies’ confessions are often cliquish, making them difficult to understand unless you’re part of North London’s poverty-stricken youth culture but it’s the commentary about the grey areas of masculinity such as the taboo of insecurity that permit a universal appeal and separate them from other Soccer A.M-marketed bands (Kasabian, The Fratellis, Klaxons). Lines such as “I love my friends more dearly than I’m allowed to say aloud” on the aforementioned “Blackmarket Blues” and “your face is all dropped at the boy’s looking lonely” on the Disclosure-grooved “Deeper“, express this unique insight.
In interviews, Real Lies also share intriguing disapproval of the pretentious Americanized sectors of London who listen to indie rock from the States, maybe it’s best if they don’t meet fellow North Londoners Wolf Alice then. Real Lies’ Real Life is out now via Marathon Artists, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Matt Hobbs