Melody Maker

8 December 1984


Strawberry Switchblade, Shaw Theatre, London

It's curious that the organisers of 'A Weekend of Women Entertainers' should choose Strawberry Switchblade, a band that have been marketed to suit the male palate. Their choice, however, might simply highlight their lack of choice.

At Brockwell Park this summer, Switchblade faced a barrage of bottles and abuse from Spear of Destiny and New Toddlers Army fans. They showed great stoicism as the mindless crowd erupted with every glimpse of stocking top. [see Sounds 11 August 1984 for a review of that gig]

Tonights surroundings were far more amenable, yet the Scottish duo seemed even more jittery, offering only flushed embarrassment between numbers, and a wary disquiet during them. Perhaps, like many, they find it easier to play to a horde throwing bottles than an audience in the throes of apathy.

Their amiable saccarine-coated Sixties ballads are paired with an image of ribbons and curls cut from the glossy pages of Suzi In Wonderland. On the psychedelic spectrum, the Switchblade rank about two steps up from Simon & Garfunkel. Their love ballads, 'Another Day' and 'Way Down', were played bereft of any visceral emotive direction, and only bolstered by backing tapes and a slide show whose symbolic significance (if any) was lost on the audience... and the band. Endless snaps of bloater fish and streptocci induced a sea of tranquility, bordering on somnulence.

The Strawberry's repertoire is painfully derivative, but the submissive frailty of maiden and music has the taste of deception. The songs' weak substance allows appearance to dominate proceedings: Rose McDowall's mild, wispy vocals complement tunes streaked with mawkish sentimentality. Her shy, nervous and vulnerable manner entices the viewer's attention, the music playing second fiddle to the mask of cosmetic beauty.

This endearing and genteel manipulation worked best when the drum-tape was silenced and 'Trees And Flowers' was left in the melancholy solitude of Jill Bryson's close harmonies and soothing guitar strum.

The vague odour of patchouli and Leichner wafts about the Empress' new clothes, but on such lovely models, the garments suit well.