gig reviews - mar/apr 08
Take eight chicken breasts, 60 eggs, two to four
sit-ups, a city full of boats, and a dubious sleeveless garment and what do
we have? Only the Southampton leg of We Are Scientists’ Back in Style tour!
So as the over-excitable and somewhat fashion-challenged band roll into town
with a tour bus big enough to rival the Queen Victoria currently residing at
the docks, is it a beautiful creation or a sticky mess?
W.A.S’s chicken, egg and occasional sit-up routine in
preparation for this tour seems to have worked a treat, as has whatever
regime their lighting guy’s been on, as all the colours of the rainbow are
paraded for our corneal pleasure this evening, in striking synchronisation.
Their sound engineer, however, seems to have missed his eggs, and sleeps
through the first few songs, resulting in a rather unpalatable tinny
Luckily though someone gives him a swift kick and early
problems are rectified allowing W.A.S. to produce a colossal sound complete
with raving synths, thunderstorm-esque drums, and those unique W.A.S. vocal
harmonies, all packaged up into a collection of juggernauting tracks.
Whilst new album Brain Thrust Mastery is little more
than an extension of their first outing, it’s been a dramatic time for the
band during their hiatus, with many consigning W.A.S to the one album
scrapheap. After losing a third of the band when their drummer left, they’ve
still yet to name a permanent replacement, but the four men on stage
certainly look and act like a complete band, even if only two of them are
Wheeling out hit after hit, the band blast through
their set, occasionally indulging in a little band member to band member
obscure banter that provokes a collective ‘huh’ from the audience.
Faster, louder, stronger, W.A.S. are most definitely a
band better heard live than tweaked in the studio. ‘Nobody Move’, ‘After
Hours’ and ‘Callback’ are highlights, as is lead singer Keith Murray’s foray
into the audience, resulting in severe ravaging from some over enthusiastic
female fans. The man’s got grey hair and was wearing a sleeveless shirt...
surely he’s more of an embarrassing dad figure than a heart throb?
Despite coming on at 9:15pm and claiming to be playing
‘til 11, the band slink off at 10:30 having exhausted themselves and the
audience, with the sound of a triumphant comeback ringing in their ears.
For a band that just consist of drums and an organ,
Leeds' Two Minute Noodles make a pretty hefty sound, coming across like
Satan's own lift music. They've certainly got one of the most unique sounds
I've heard in ages: like a church organist who only plays covers of the
themes to Commadore 64 games. Their hardcore-lounge stylings are
surprisingly catchy, and while their one trick wears a bit thin after 5 or 6
songs, its still a very satisfying one.
Now I'm ashamed and humbled to say, I missed the
beginning of Threatmatic's set, which was a shame as what I did catch was
quite tasty. Songs clatter and stomp with menace, and show that just because
you're folksy, it doesn't mean you can't rock out. If Gorky's had listened
to more Led Zeppelin whilst growing up then they might have sounded like
And so to Clinic. Liverpool's finest are on their 6th
album now, and have a surprisingly rabid following for such an underground
band, some of whom have even decided to mimic their surgical get-up (its
Hawaiian-surgeons for this tour incidentally, in case you were interested).
I guess the devotion isn't that hard to understand really, because you see,
behind all the wigged-out weirdness, Clinic are secretly one of the UKs best
pop bands. Which is why hearts audibly sink when they announce they're going
to be playing 'Do it!', their latest album, in its entirety. Its not that
its a bad album or anything ('Memories' for example, is a belter: glam stomp
one minute, sad lament the next) its just not an especially engaging album,
compared to some of its predecessors. Its a Clinic album basically, and I've
already got five of those. Live, a few of the new songs take on a bit more
vim and vigour, but most simply drift by. Thankfully though, the band have
chosen to play a second set of old stuff afterwards. Its not exactly, 'all
the hits', but its a few well-chosen tunes, from their past which remind you
what an awesome and varied band Clinic can be. 'Second Line' (still the
funkiest slow song, or slowest funky song ever written) is greeted like 'My
Sharona' at a Knack gig. 'Family' still sounds grim and nasty. Those Clinic
boys; they don't make it easy to love them, but if you put the hours in
they'll make it worth your while.
5.4.08 – Carling Academy, Newcastle
From the moment Elbow take the stage it is clear that
this is going to be a polished performance by a band at the peak of its
powers. As many bands do they start the show with the opener from the new
album ‘Starlings’, complete with one note trumpet blasts and flashes of
The other songs from ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ are performed
with Elbow’s characteristic mix of high emotion and down to earth realism.
The particular stand out track from the new album is ‘Grounds For Divorce’
with its airy prelude to the dirty, grinding guitar riff. Tonight the song
is brought to life by Garvey who, when not singing, adds percussion by
hammering repeatedly on a long thin piece of metal suspended from his left
hand toward the floor.
Garvey is not your average frontman. Tonight he is
dressed smartly in a black shirt but still looks somewhat dishevelled. He
exudes a calm composure that is infectious and is not above casting himself
as the fool or the butt of the joke in his lyrics. He has a real presence on
stage and, unlike many, does not overphysicalise the music. In many ways he
reminds me of Morrissey, he has that kind of distinguished statesman air
about him. He enquires after every song “Is everyone still OK?” and sounds
as though he is genuinely interested.
Other highlights of the evening include the storming
‘Newborn’ whose epiphany threatens to take the roof clean off the place.
Elsewhere ‘Leaders Of The Free World’ swaggers along impressively and is
warmly received, especially during the cathartic chanting of the end refrain
“Passing the gun from father to feckless son”. As they move through their
back catologue I am reminded how many truly great songs they have to their
The only slight disappointment from a personal point of
view was that they didn’t play more from ‘Cast Of Thousands’ but there is
more than enough quality throughout the night to make this largely
insignificant. And when you have ‘Grace Under Pressure’ as a closer it’s a
pretty cast-iron guarantee that everyone is leaving on a high. The
repetition of the line “We still believe in love so fuck you” is a fitting
end to a consummate performance.
Prior to a legal showdown with their namesake
photocopying corporation, the artists formerly known as Xerox Teens were
making quite a name for themselves. So although tonight's show sees their
avant garde sounds strangely juxtaposed alongside the radio friendly retro
repertoire of the headliners, it's nevertheless an ideal opportunity to
discover if the hype has any basis in reality. Live, they are regimented and
symmetrical, but to paraphrase, the joy of repetition really isn't in them.
Arrogantly omitting their latest and greatest single release, the paranoid
prototype hip-hop of 'How To Reduce The Chances Of Being A Terror Victim',
their set climaxes with the tambourines, kettle drums and speed metal
guitars of 'Darlin'', as the transient experimentalism of XX Teens is lost
in translation on stage.
And in a flourish of fanfares, the coolest
band to come out of Sheffield so far this decade take to the stage. Feel
free to disagree, Alex Turner, but remember that arrogance is no guarantee
of talent, so who's to say that you're not writing cheques that your skinny
jean clad arse can't cash, eh, EH!?! Led by Kate Jackson, an iconic post
punk Madonna, the five non Long Blondes launch into their latest single
'Century', featuring the postmodern production of indie disco overlord Erol
Alkan. It's lyrics (“once futuristic change / now nostalgic knockdown / out
of sync / out of fashion”) belie everything that the band believe in.
Because in no way have they kissed goodbye to the yesteryear fantasies of
their breakthrough singles. The Sheffield quintet's new material is all bone
shaking bass and tribal Siouxsie rhythms. But as ever, the most rapturous
reception is reserved for tracks from their debut album 'Someone To Drive
You Home': The cautionary teenage tale of 'Once And Never Again' (“another
drama by the kitchen sink tonight / you said you'd cut yourself whilst
washing up the knives”). the intercity transportation anthem 'Separated By
Motorways' (“wipe your eyes darling, it’s OK / meet me on the dual
carriageway ”), and of course Giddy Stratospheres (“there's a train at the
station / it's leaving this morning / it'll take you away from / this girl
that's so boring ”). Moving swiftly on to the inevitable encore, 'Lust In
The Movies' showcases the style over substance of their sassy sixties pop
and sexy seventies disco sounds.
Picture the scene – one night you’re playing at the
majestic Queen Elizabeth Hall dreaming of all that lies ahead whilst wiping
the sweat from your brows with fragrant, freshly washed towels. Two nights
later you find yourselves in the back room of a rough and ready Oxford
boozer wiping yourself down with hastily provided toilet paper having
changed in your tour van due to the lack of any type of dressing room –
that’s the world of touring I guess.
An eleventh hour line up change sees Mewgatz and Phil
McMinn added as support in place of the recently deported Peter Broderick.
Mewgatz open proceedings with what has been described
as “delicate but damaging” electronica. Sounding as ramshackle as you’d
expect from one man attempting to play a cheap Yamaha keyboard at the same
time as a range of child-like instruments, there is however an air of beauty
present in the sounds emerging and the crowd soon become absorbed in the
restrained and tender vocals.
Phil McMinn has certainly experienced the harsher side
of the music business in recent years but rising like a phoenix from the
ashes of Fell City Girl, his current band The Winchell Riots look set to
tread a very successful route into the hearts of the nation’s music lovers.
Playing solo and acoustically tonight allows the audience to experience his
incredible voice in all its stripped down glory. Climaxing with the
extraordinary ‘Red Square’ the lyric “I’ve never seen a light this bright
for years” seems aptly appropriate.
Efterklang, reduced in numbers due to the
afore-mentioned deportation, are certainly here to enjoy themselves, and
their beaming smiles alone light the dimly lit room. Oozing charm from every
pore the audience are soon swept along on an incredible musical journey,
admiring a range of beautifully constructed melodies and harmonies. Missing
violin players are replaced by whistling whilst the required sound effects
of the wind are expertly recreated by an ever participating audience. The
applause is rapturous as the British leg of the tour is completed in
City & Colour
4.4.2008 - Wedgwood Rooms Portsmouth
As it neared 8pm the queue outside the Wedgwood Rooms
stretched back as far as the eye could see. The lucky man who was right at
the front had been standing there since 3.30pm, just to make sure he was the
first in. The reason for this was Dallas Green - a man with a voice that
could make a grown man cry. As people poured into the chair filled venue,
all trying to get the best seat in the place, the anticipation was
unbearable, waiting for the man of the moment to grace the stage.
Support act Attack In Black set the tone for the gig;
their alternative rock sound, very similar to that of bands like Modest
Mouse, being well received by the crowd. Attack In Black even pointed out
the fact that it was very odd to see the whole crowd seated, which the
audience agreed with. The biggest reception the band got, however, was when
Dallas Green joined them on stage for their closing two songs, the
excitement level then reaching fever pitch as everyone knew what they had
been waiting for was drawing ever closer.
Finally the man of the hour appeared on stage, acoustic
guitar in hand, and launched straight into his set. At first he appeared
very nervous and shy, only stopping to tune his guitars, but once Dallas was
into the swing of things the crowd interaction began. Taking time out to
have a dig at British boy bands like Take That and Boyzone, he even dealt
with the problem of people shouting out from the crowd by telling stories of
previous shows. This had the two-fold effect of amusing as well as
humiliating the person who was bold enough to shout out. Dallas Green
treated the crowd to songs from both ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Bring me your love’
which was to everyone’s delight. He even threw in a treat for all the die
hard Alexisonfire fans by playing an acoustic version of ‘Boiled Frogs’
which inspired the crowd to start singing the chorus back to the singer/song
writer. This was enough to send shivers running down your spine.
Once the set had finished Dallas left the stage to a
rapturous applause, only to return to play the perfect show closer in his
classic ‘Comin’ Home’. It was the moment which produced the biggest smiles
on everyone’s face. For the fans in the Wedgwood Rooms it was the night they
had witnessed a beautiful voice coming from simply a magnificent man. By the
time the show closed, every man in the audience wanted to be Dallas Green
and every woman wanted to be with him. As the happy crowd left the venue,
you could tell that each and every one was in awe of what they had just
witnessed and were very, very satisfied to have been a part of it.
28.3.2008 - Cardiff, Barfly
It’s perhaps wrong of me to assume that all bands from
Liverpool will be good (we’ll ignore Sonia’s contributions to 80’s pop).
After all, they’ve breathed the same - or very similar air - to The Beatles.
Therefore, they must be pop-royalty before they even leave the city. The
Maybes? confronted Cardiff with a wall of guitars. Quite literally, four
guitarists stood in line in front of the drummer. They looked ordinary
enough, without a pair of skinny jeans in sight on stage. These boys don’t
need indie fashion, they have talent as we were about to find out.
Their confidence and enthusiasm exuded from the stage.
As The Maybes? played their set, track ‘Talk About you’ certainly got people
moving: tarted up Friday-night-party girls began side-stepping around their
handbags, whilst indie boys nodded in appreciative unison to these Liverpool
likely-lads: everyone was paying attention. Lead singer, Nick Ellis belted
out his well-written and killer-hooked indie-pop with his huge gob. The
bassist stomped, the drummer battered and there was even a glimpse of a
The finale, ‘Promise’, was hypnotic, epic even, with
its dance-influenced riff. The Maybes? had the audience in the sweaty palms
of their musical hands. As the instrumental track climaxed, The Maybes?
paused slightly before kicking into a striding finish: the audience even
collectively gasped, followed by prolonged applause and cheering. Brillaint!
As they finished and began to pack up, there was a
stir. People were reaching into their pockets and parting with their money
to buy CDs at the end. Yes, people were paying. Nick Ellis schmoozed with
the Welsh girls and shook people’s hands whilst chatting about how great
Cardiff was and promising to head out into the city’s nightlife.
These Liverpudlian lads were charming, staying true to
everything great about British music and doing Liverpool proud. There is no
‘maybe’ about it: these boys are onto something.
If you were to judge them purely by the contents of
their Myspace page, the trio that comprise Sky Larkin are no mere veterans
of touring but battle-scarred warriors of the road. They’ve supported such
esteemed acts as Broken Social Scene, The Gossip, and Architecture in
Helsinki as well as touring Sweden…not bad for a trio from Leeds. Still,
their stage-presence (or lack of) belies their experience…singer/guitarist
Katie’s vocals struggle to assert themselves over their indie-rock lite when
she’s not offering up awkward thanks or titles, whilst Douglas on the bass
grimly keeps his head down. Thank God then for drummer Nestor who approaches
the job in hand much like an angry terrier might hurl itself at an exposed
trouser leg. Of course, that’s not necessarily reason enough to recommend
them but a tune called “Matador” vaguely lingers in my memory even now.
Land of Talk kicks things up a notch. Quite simply,
they’re the T-1000 to Sky Larkin’s clunkier prototype. They might not have a
mental drummer but Elizabeth Powell does have a penchant for sticking her
tongue out when things get particularly rockin’ and her voice cuts through
the guitar noise with ease. It’s a great voice too…like Juliana Hatfield or
Gemma Hayes with added angst. Perhaps the only thing they’re missing is that
one killer tune, although all the songs are decent and you can’t help but be
slightly mesmerised by the intensity of the performance. This is what
happened when a female singer-songwriter decides to throw down her acoustic
and go all math-rock, and I can’t help but approve. For the moment Land of
Talk are your definitive 7/10 type of band…let’s wait and see what happens.
Well, what actually does happen next is that a voice
starts to calmly and repeatedly ask us to evacuate the building. Menomena is
in the middle of setting up and I initially think this is part of their act.
Judging by all the other confused expressions on display I’m not the only
one, but eventually we’re all herded outside into the chilly night air where
bands and crowd mingle whilst the problem is investigated. It’s late, it’s
cold and I’m tempted to leave but my friend convinces me to stick it out the
wait, and in the end it’s worth it. I’m not sure how to describe Menomena’s
music or who to liken them to, but they’re a funny, talented bunch of guys
who like to swap instruments mid-song and manage to do so without looking as
though they’re merely showing off. Guitars, sax, keyboards and drums, all
played in symphonic style by just three people. My advice would be to catch
them live next time they’re in town – you won’t regret it.
Twee As Fuck has very fast become London’s very best proper old school
Indie night. By using the original indie blueprint of doing it their own
way, hand picking the bands they love and working hard to promote it.
Spurred on by the only real reason; “being bored at other nights” and
deciding they could do better. They can and they do. I will travel up from
Brighton every month for this night simply because it’s the best; I will get
home at 7am after blowing half my wages because I missed my train (again!)
But Twee As Fuck is always worth it. Tonight is a perfect example: 3 great
bands, including one from Sweden and one from Glasgow, it’s like the glory
days all over again.
The Mare (www.myspace.com/themarethemare)
have came all the way from Stockholm just to play Twee As Fuck. They were a
stand out band for me at Emmaboda two years ago and they stand out again
tonight. There’s something sweetly genuine about their music and the cute,
slightly affected way they phrase their English over Belle and Sebastian
chord changes and trumpet that makes me love them.
Strange Idols (www.myspace.com/strangeidols)
musically and aesthetically remind me of the vastly underrated, now
sadly defunct Vermont. They look good, all stay-press slacks and fringes
with singer dressed as a Barnum & Baileys era trapeze artiste. It’s lovely
not to have to sit through any NME wannabe nonsense, but it would have been
nicer still if they had given me more passion, a tempo change perhaps or
just a bit more balls (the music that is, not the singer!) I can remember
how they looked, I just can’t remember a damn thing about the music (and
it’s not the 1st time I’ve seen them!) this may be OK for NME, but it’s not
good enough for a music fan.
Bricolage had the balls, they also had Franz Ferdinand's 2nd album.
www.myspace.com/bricolagetheband I thought I was the only person who
still listened to it, apparently not. Bricolage are obviously a Glasgow
band. Scratch the sheen of any Glasgow band and you’ll discover a love of
rock n roll, it’s most obviously apparent at the moment in Glasvegas, but
has been a constant, forever. Anyone remember Hipsway?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPQwCrJ7LmE or Love & Money? I find it
quite sweet that this band doesn’t.
Does anyone like BARFLY? Taking our music, packaging it up into easy to
manage little blocks and selling it back. Barfly is the IKEA of the music
world complete with its own little catalogue. I don’t know the story behind
BARFLY, who owns it or where they came from, but I wouldn’t be surprised if
there was as suspect a story behind it as there is with IKEA. If I discover
they are owned by CLEARCHANEL I may have to blow something up.
Tonight is weirdly quiet, apparently the support acts were chosen (by
BAFLY) the night before. I get there early and have already missed the first
band. All I could say about the 2nd, Rob The Rich (www.myspace.com/robtherichtheband),
is that they make me wonder which one of them is Rob, but apart from being a
bad joke, that would also be a lie, they simply made me wonder what rubbish
I would have had to sit through if the Strokes had never existed. I used to
get annoyed by British bands singing in faux American, Kurt Cobain accents
(and I’m sure it was a problem long before Nirvana) but every Mockney Pete
Doherty inspired frontman I have had to sit through in the past few
years has pushed me one step closer to owning a shotgun.
Das Wanderlust cheer me up (www.myspace.com/daswanderlust),
they cheer me up a lot with their bouncy, fun, slightly drunken shambling.
The soundman is doing a great job and tonight I can hear the lovely twee
words that they usually try to hide behind a racket of noise. They have to
be the loudest band in indiepop and tonight they are having fun.
Introducing each song by letting us know which key it’s in and
challenging their (fantastic) new drummer to keep up. The fun is
infectious, everybody is smiling. We demand an encore, then demand their
“Hit”, “Orange shop” and for half an hour it feels like a proper indie gig
in a proper club, with a proper indie band…weeeeeeh!
1.3.08 – The Sage, Gateshead
It is just after nine when the lights dim and a shadowy
figure in a baseball cap shuffles across the stage. As the lights go up the
figure is revealed to be Mark Oliver Everett (E for short) and a ripple of
applause spills around the pristine Hall One of the Gateshead Sage. As the
applause reaches its zenith the perfect acoustics are amply demonstrated -
not quite what you would expect from the exterior of a venue which has
variously been described as a ‘fat armadillo’ and a ‘used condom’. The Sage,
not unlike the Eels, is an acquired taste whose curious beauty invigorates
its admirers and confounds others who simply do not see the point of it.
Although I wouldn’t call myself a big fan I do own most
of the Eels albums. I have always had a soft spot for them and have long
been intrigued by E’s take on the world and where it might stem from.
Luckily for me there is a documentary shown before the main performance
which follows E on a journey across America tracing the legacy of his
deceased father. It details a theory of parallel universes developed by
Everett Senior as a young man which was dismissed for many decades before
achieving widespread acclaim among the scientific community in his later
years. In one passage of the documentary a scientist asks E “Do you know how
it feels to unveil a masterpiece and have nobody notice?” “Yeah…happens
every time I put out an album” is the sardonic riposte.
In the period between rejection and recognition Everett
Senior worked as a Military Scientist and cut a disenfranchised figure,
clearly wounded by the scorn of his peers. At home he was described by E as
a monolithic patriarch who barely spoke and offered little in the way of
affection or guidance. When his theory was finally accepted E described his
father as energised and happy, speaking at conferences and gleefully
accepting the recognition he always felt he deserved. Tragically, just
months after this he died of a heart attack. Soon after his father’s death
E’s sister committed suicide, then his mother died, and he was alone in the
world. The discovery of these tragic events brought E’s lyrics into sharp
focus for me, particularly during the moving ‘Bus Stop Boxer’: “I don’t miss
where I came from, but each night I dream about being back home. When I wake
up in the morning I’m too tired, and tired of being alone. So I get up and
go downtown, and pick me out a little piece of ground. Where I can prove
something to the world. I can prove something to the world. Don’t look at
me, I’m the bus stop boxer”.
After sitting down and plucking a guitar from nearby E
addresses the audience and makes it abundantly clear that we are not to
speak to him…at all. This is done in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner but
when it is repeated another couple of times you get the feeling he probably
means it. With the ground rules established E moves through some perfectly
observed solo versions of classics including the piano-led ‘It’s a
Motherfucker’. This is the epitome of the Eels, an outrageously simple song
delivered with such delicacy and poise that it transcends the sum of its
parts. The lyrics are these: ‘It’s a motherfucker. Being here without you.
Thinking ‘bout the good times. Thinking ‘bout the bad. And I won’t ever be
the same.’ The delivery of this song demonstrates E’s capacity to express
universal emotions in a deeply personal and intimate manner.
But Eels are not merely about shoegazing melancholy,
and just on cue ‘the Chet’ is introduced to add another element to the
evening. There is light hearted banter between the two as E reads out actual
newspaper reviews and is horrified to discover that they all refer to ‘the
Chet’ as much as he. “How am I supposed to feel better about myself now?” he
asks with a wry smile. ‘The Chet’ gets his own back though when dryly
recreating a conversation from E’s autobiography while rapidly donning
different pairs of glasses to switch between E and a budding actress. ‘The
Chet’ proves himself to be the equal of E in terms of musicianship too as
they both take turns on the various instruments. During the excellent
‘Flyswatter’ E stops playing the piano and sits down on a stool leaving ‘the
Chet’ hammering on the drums. E then walks casually over to the drum kit and
carefully relieves ‘the Chet’ of his drumsticks without missing a beat. ‘The
Chet’ then wanders nonchalantly over to take E’s place at the piano and the
song continues apace.
Other highlights of the evening include a barnstorming
rendition of ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ with E on drums, and an equally lively
version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Good Times Bad Times’. To complement this vigour
there is the unalloyed whimsy of ‘My Beloved Monster’ and the disquieting
‘Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor’: ‘My name’s Elizabeth. My life is shit and
piss’. The set list is well sequenced from quiet to loud and back again, and
there is enough comedy relief to avoid becoming mired in the melancholy.
In the final analysis E’s music is catalysed by
catastrophe, perforated with pain and drenched in despair. Despite this the
experience of watching Eels is one of warmth and intimacy, a feeling that
you are in on a joke nobody else gets. Immediately after the gig I have the
feeling that I have been in the presence of one of the great humanists of
our time, and very few people even know his name.
11.1.08 - Granadaland at the Love Apple,
Every time I listen to Sheffield aces Champion
Kickboxer I think of Wild Beasts. There is a reason. It’s because they sang
the line “Wild Beasts have stolen half our food” in the song Clouds taken
from their brilliant Candlepower EP. And every time I hear it, I wonder “is
it a reference to actual wild beasts or the band?” So it was a slight
reversal for me to have that song lodged in my head as Wild Beasts took to
the stage in this packed-out Love Apple. Anyway, none of that is of any use,
unless of course it is to illustrate the point that Champion Kickboxer are
one of the few bands that can hold a candle – no pun intended – to Wild
Beasts in terms of both musical eccentricity and quality. And tonight’s set
is fluent, fun and proof that this Kendal four-piece are on the way to
bigger things. The singles all made an appearance; Brave Bulging Buoyant
Clairvoyants, Through Dark Night and the forthcoming piano-led Assembly. And
though tonight is a more extended set than I’ve seen by them previously,
there isn’t a dull moment. The delivery is as individual as always and the
increased vocal presence of bass player Tom Fleming is a masterstroke as it
allows Hayden Thorpe’s exceptional voice to be complimented with a slightly
more conventional one and gives the chance for this band’s individuality to
shine through without becoming monotonous.
The obvious vocal reference points for me are Scott
Walker and Russell Mael from Sparks, and the music they play has a sort of
fifties pop feel, but still fits in with some of the more interesting modern
indie bands currently doing the rounds. If that sounds like an odd mixture,
it is. But it works so well that as you watch Wild Beasts it feels like the
music they’re making is completely normal and natural and that this band –
who are complimented tonight by an exceptional performance from the sound
engineer – are here to stay. These Wild Beasts are making their way to the
top of the food chain.
Concrete Moniker – Launch
The Splice Girls + Alexis + Findlay_Hunter_Rennie + The Red Box + Tullis
Rennie + The Will Chadwick Disaster
5.3.08 - Common, Manchester
Concrete Moniker are a brand spanking new recording
label. They wish to offer us new ‘digital sounds’. Question is do we need
There’s no doubt that digital is the way it’s going
here in Manchester. Thrown a coin in the air in our lovely Northern Quarter
and you’re bound to hit someone carrying an i-something-or-other. I’ve never
really got the whole laptop rock thing so I thought I’d head down to the
imac fest that is Concrete Moniker.
First up are The Splice Girls (Get it? Get it?). Two
femmes sat behind two, one black and one white, ibooks (is that right?). I
can’t help but feel they’re not having a whale of a time behind their little
screens. In fact, there’s a sci-fi staple of people being enslaved by
computers. We’ve all seen it, once intelligent people sit behind keyboards
all glassy eyed, dribbling slightly, controlled by a higher man-made power.
This is, almost, the Splice Girls look. Their music is all bleeps and bloops
that never quite seem to go anywhere, which may be the point. But, this is
my opinion and that’s all you’ll get here, I want music to go somewhere. The
longer they bleep the more people talk, the more people talk the more their
bleeps seem insignificant. If only they’d present themselves in a more
interesting, less we’ve got homework to finish, fashion. Humans are curious
creatures and, as such, we want to know how things work. That’s why bands
don’t perform behind a curtain, that’s why it’s hard to be moved by the
Splice Girls and their hidden laptop screens.
Alexis sits much in the Splice Girls do, behind his
laptop. Alexis, however, looks like a crazed professor which gives him a bit
more of a visual advantage. What he and his laptop create is something close
to a twenty minute round up of Apocalypse Now. Huge helicopter chopping
noises spray forth with synthesized undercurrents. The intensity rises and
then it’s all over, Alexis seeming none the wiser. In fact, the more intense
the sound gets the more at home Alexis seems... much like Martin Sheen
Next up on to the floor is findlay_hunter_rennie. Not
content with laptops alone, they’ve brought instruments with strings on
them. The blend of guitar, cello, and laptop is stunning. While listening to
them I worked out what was wrong with The Splice Girls and Alexis... bare
with me if you will...
Imagine you’re on a plane, juddering down the runway,
about to take off. You’re stomach all in knots, the scenery flashing by in
awkward fashion and then you enter into the clouds. That’s Splice Girls and
Alexis. They’re the journey up to that point; you’re stuck, stuck in the
greys and whites of the clouds, unable to see out. findlay_hunter_rennie go
beyond that. They also offer that moment when the plane rises up through the
clouds and into the open sky. Everything begins to make sense, the light
opens up, the horizon shows it’s self. Their sound starts off wayward and
unbalanced, notes cut in and out of each other, but then they come together
and it all starts to make sense. It’s still dark and discordant yet it feels
like you’re on a journey, it’s fantastic. Concrete Moniker have a real find
on their hands.
The Red Box has my vote for one simple reason... he has
made a program which enables him to make music with a wii controller... I
shit you not. It’s all whooshes and swoops, like a rollercoaster soundtrack
and he stands there, like the thin-controller, creating this sound with his
wii joystick flailing around in hand. How far he can take this idea, I have
no idea, but then I’m clearly not as clever as this man so I’ll let him be
Now, the Tullis Rennie, of findlay_hunter_rennie,
returns for a solo set. He produces, on laptop alone, what his three-piece
created earlier. The sounds come out garbled and skewed until he adds one
beat, then another, and another. All of a sudden, what were random clicks
and whurrs become instruments in a bizarre orchestra. The fact that his set
barely sounded improvised (as all the sets were tonight) made it all the
Last up, The Will Chadwick Disaster. Not a disaster at
all, Will. Mr Chadwick has some fancy arse i-thing that lets him control the
sound he produces by twisting his laptop and placing his hands in certain
positions. It may sound gimmicky but, of all the laptop acts tonight, Will
Chadwick is the most engaging of all. Moving his instrument about in such a
fashion, it seems almost as if he’s trying to exorcise a demon (or really
bad trojan virus) from his laptop. His music should be put on every advert
attempting to curtail train related accidents, chugging and chugging until
it seemed like we were being descended on by 1,000 angered rail workers, a
disaster that finished the night off in excellent fashion.
Good luck Concrete Moniker, I hope the answer to my
original question is ‘yes’. I think we could do with you around.
28.2.08 - Clwb Ifor Bach
Standing outside the club there’s a buzz. People are
frantic for tickets to the sold out event and the local radio have even
turned up to capture the hype. It seems that Duffy is an over-night
sensation across the age groups by the looks of the crowd; everyone wants a
piece of pure pop Duffy. She totters on stage after the audience have been
standing on their feet for one and a half hours. She’s nervy, petite and a
sheer embodiment of 60s class (dimples included). The audience are cheering
and there are plenty of them to welcome Duffy. The tiny upstairs room of
Clwb Ifor Bach is packed like never before.
“Shw mae?” She’s talking Welsh, so not many people know
what is going on, including the band. Without further ado, “Rockferry” kicks
in and the full force of Duffy’s vocal cords is unleashed. Her vocal prowess
cannot be knocked: the girl’s got pipes. And so she quickly bumbles through
the set list, through a collection of very predictable songs. With her
stilted dance moves and unconfident ad-lib in between songs, moping about
boys and lost love, Duffy is definitely not a diva (even if she has been on
Jools Holland and her single’s number one). She’s pure
butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth charm and is sticking to 60s soul like Amy
Winehouse is to booze. Her band consisted of ultra-preened musicians that
jarred with her acclaimed humble beginnings in Nefyn, Gwynedd, North Wales,
but nevertheless, were soulful.
We were all reminded that Duffy has managed to sell out
across the country in the first leg of her tour, before her album has even
hit the shops. She announced “Serious” apologising that we wouldn’t know the
songs. But that didn’t seem to matter. When the organ of ‘Mercy’ reigned in
the audience’s ears; everyone was swaying and clapping in time. It was as if
Dusty Springfield had returned in Duffy form. Yet, this is a potential
hindrance: Duffy’s music is limited by its location in the 60s-imitation
genre. It’s questionable how long Duffy can sustain her blast-from-the-past
pleasantries in our modern era.
For now, Duffy’s management will certainly be rubbing
their hands with glee every time Amy Winehouse checks into rehab leaving
Duffy with centre stage in the retro-revival. The music matched the hype.
Yet, Duffy is, like her music, of a particular moment. I suppose it depends
how long the moment lasts before we let bygones by bygones, get bored of
purity and go back to Amy’s black.