They look like a much younger Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard; Marcus Haughton, the curly brother, on vocals and keys, and Miles Haughton, the brother without dreadlocks, on lead vocals and guitar. Fortunately, their three mates, Louis Bhose (bass) and Oscar Manthorpe (guitar) and Ben (drums) look like they have met up at Hogwarts and diminish the risk that Theme Park is mistaken for a boy band. That said, it is unmistakably true that the amount young female music fans in the audience is considerably larger than at the average gig at Eurosonic. Who can blame them? If you’re not young or female Thursday night in Groningen, you can have your moment hoping to be crushed to death between the strong Scandinavian thighs of Åse Røyset, leadsinger/guitarist of the Norwegian noise-rock trio Deathcrush.
Back in Blighty several music blogauthorities have labeled Theme Park as ‘too light’, but the association made with China Crisis, one of my favorite 80’s bands, sparked my interest. Based on the beginning of Theme Parks performance in Huize Maas I suspect that the critics might be right. Miles Haughton is singing opening song, Milk, in such an uninspired manner, you think he still in sound check. All the greater the surprise, when during the rest of the gig he reveals a deep and mature soul voice. He doesn’t use that voice as a soulsinger, but in a detached and contemplative way that reminds me of TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone.
Theme Park are highly accessible and poppy and have chosen to be so. Theirs is a mix of the eighties New Wave of bands like INXS, the Simple Minds and Fine Young Cannibals and the blue eyed soul of Robert Palmer, Hall & Oates and Todd Rudgren. Most of the time the mix results in irresistible funkiness. Songs like Ghosts are deceptively easy on the ears, but conceal a casual accuracy. It’s a quality the Londoners share with last years favorites from the UK, Metronomy.
Only sometimes, on songs like A mountain We Love and the Blood Orange-like song Wax does their composed uncoolness sag into drabness. But like China Crisis, Theme park are a band that appeals to my tolerance, After the gig I’m left hungry, but not because Theme Park are too light. They are living proof that music can be easy to digest and nourishing at the same time.