For a moment the only Desperate Journalist was me – stranded on a lethargic rail-replacement bus somewhere in the Essex hinterland. Like the title of the latest Desperate Journalist album – Maximum Sorrow – I feared disappointment and loss at the thought of missing their headline show. Still, this gig was originally scheduled to coincide with that 2021 album release so I’m not that tardy.
Happily I reach civilisation to see Jo, Simon, Rob, Caz and Charley capture the hearts of the King’s Cross crowd.
Often described as driven guitar pop with a Smiths vibe. Morrissey would certainly approve. Or at least the 1980s version of Stephen Patrick would be mildly amused. Jo Bevan could’ve stepped from the cover of a Smiths single. St Pancras is nearby – with its direct route to the land of Gallic cool – and tonight Jo is like a French nouvelle vague movie star. Cooler than a packet of gauloises and a glass of pastis.
Looks can be deceiving, of course, because beyond that gamine chic Desperate Journalist pack an incredible punch and launch their set with Was It Worth It? Crashing in with a vintage Morrissey/Marr Strangeways Here We Come vibe with Bevan stating “I want to write a love song…”. Personality Girlfriend follows and it’s the perfect alternative pop song very much in the vein of contemporaries Fightmilk and yet more scathing, more sweetly bitter.
The magnificently dark Hollow is introduced for “all those of a gothic persuasion” and doesn’t disappoint – passionate and emotional it could so easily soundtrack that new wave movie I’ve arbitrarily cast Jo in.
She performs vocal gymnastics between songs making Eliza Doolittle vocal noises to get her cords ready for the chords. Jo wryly chuckles too as a couple of instrumental breaks provoke premature applause only for the songs to continue on. Then there’s Bevan’s banter “is everybody having…a…good…Saturday?” – cue applause as Jo adds, “I’m really good at banter…great…”.
Throughout the set Jo entwines herself around the mic cable and is completely absorbed in the songs. Desperate Journalist is a complete band though and for all of this attention on Jo Bevan it’s the brilliance of Simon, Rob, Caz and serial band guitarist Charley that gives her the space to indulge and create a perfect delivery of the songs.
The love for this band is strong and older tracks like the angry, urgent Cristina and the equally punchy Control get a very warm reception.Tonight it’s King’s Cross but in a couple of weeks Desperate Journalist head for Texas and SXSW to showcase their talent to a whole new audience. Me, I’ll still be on that bus…