Charlie Boyer describes his band’s sound as “primitive, sexy, glamorous rock’n'roll” and, frankly, it’s hard to improve on that. Emerging from the same hotbed of young London talent that spawned The Horrors and Toy, it’s no surprise to learn that Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs were spotted by Heavenly Records scouts supporting Toy early in 2012. As the label’s own publicity puts it perfectly, “They took the sounds of one blank generation” – specifically the NYC art-punk scene that spawned the likes of Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell – “and blasted them out to another.”
“Be Glamorous” serves as an ideal introduction to their debut album Clarietta, produced by Edwyn Collins of seminal post-punk band Orange Juice at the West Heath Yard studio, where he also recorded The Cribs. Twin guitars play a jaunty riff, drums strike up a primal beat, an organ drones its subterranean melodies, and Boyer, in lipstick and eye-shadow, urges us to leave reality behind – at least for the next three minutes – and, yes, “be glamorous.” Their garage-wall of sound conjures ghosts of psych-punk from the 1960s (Seeds, Standells) through the ’70s (Modern Lovers, Television).
Boyer’s strangulated yelps are reminiscent of Verlaine and Hell, and Ross Kristian’s Farfisa runs recall the psychedelic-garage sounds of the mid-’60s Nuggets era. But the Voyeurs are louder and more intense; bassist Danny Stead and drummer Samir Eskanda propel the songs with thunderous rhythms beneath the twin guitars of Boyer and pretty-boy Sam Davies.
Boyer’s intentions are straightforward, and he’s aiming high. “The benchmark, the blueprint is the Velvet Underground‘s album version of “Sister Ray”. That’s the feeling I want from every song we do; that ecstatic, relentless sound. I didn’t purposely set out to try to make the music sound different to everyone else around; I was just following my instincts.” Edwyn Collins, he hoped, would bestow a lighter, poppier feel on songs inspired by the seedy underbelly of London life in 2013, though he admits that he would still like the band “to get more primitive.”
Boyer previously fronted underrated London art-punk trio Electricity In Our Homes, who dealt in lo-fi repetition with avant-garde flourishes – a Pere Ubu, perhaps, to the Voyeurs’ Modern Lovers – and cites his influences as ranging from Todd Rundgren and Johnny Leyton (a protege of 1960s UK hit-maker Joe Meek, best known for the chart-topping death-disc “Johnny Remember Me”) through The Jesus And Mary Chain to the Britpop trio of Pulp, Suede and Blur.
Kristian played previously in female-fronted punk band The Violets, and Eskanda with frighteningly heavy metal-mongers Flats, and both channel elements of their former employers’ confrontational approach, while Stead was in Miss Cosmos. They practise in the heart of London’s East End and take inspiration from their surroundings. “There’s a great drag club opposite the studio called Stunners; we have cigarette breaks with these really brilliant trannies,” says Boyer. “There’s a crazy looking S&M club down there too. I think it’s about as close to early ’70s New York City as you’re going to get in London in 2013. I love it there.”