Friday, 30 October 2009

Idlewild – Birmingham Academy

The Lad, Mr International Decorator Supremo and I lined up a little forlornly outside the new Birmingham Academy with another couple of dozen people to see the perennially wonderful Idlewild. Alongside us were 2000 of Birmingham finest 15 year olds in all their finery waiting to get into see Calvin Harris (apparently voluntarily though heaven knows why). Once inside we took our places with childlike enthusiasm and expectation by the crash barrier up front. I am curiously thrilled and disappointed in equal parts that a band like Idlewild now play to 600 capacity halls rather than the 1500 or 2000 of old, but then I guess it’s a crowd of serious fans not the passing faddists of Calvin Harris et al.

The Olympic Swimmers (renamed from the curious Hindle Wakes of before) gave a, too brief, fine account of themselves, although apparently one down due to illness and left in the bus. Their two track CD, lovingly hand printed by front girl Susie Liddell a very modest two quid from the merch stand.

After the inevitable faffing around of roadies etc our wee Scots heroes took to the stage around nine OK and proceeded to knock out one brilliant song after another from a set list that lasted for an hour and a half. Almost impossible to pick out particular highlights but A Modern Way of Letting Go is affine exit.

I have to say the band looked like they were really enjoying the experience which is always good to see. The new album, the break from the confines of previous labels and perhaps the shows in Scotland and London doing back to back performances of the back catalogue seems to have brought them to refreshed vigour and energy.

Having remarked that you don’t see much moshing/crowdsurfing these days (maybe I go to the wrong gigs?), the exuberant crowd got pretty damned close in the second half of the show, and if I was less restrained I might have joined that would be a sight!

A chap who must have been almost right next to me video’d a couple of songs and can be seen on the Facebook pages here and here– I know such clips are only really any good for those remembering and pretty rubbish for anyone not there, but there you go.

So a wonderful, uplifting gig, nothing like it when it goes so brilliantly right, you step outside the daily humdrum and into another place, bless their little beardy faces

Idlewild Facebook

Olympic Swimmers Myspace

Photo credit: International Decorator Supremo

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Editors at Colston Hall

Having looked forward for some time to see Airship as the first support for Editors it was more than a little irritating to find that the doors open time was clearly a figment of someone’s imagination and we toddled into the hall just as they walked off. It seems far from fair to have a band go on to just a handful of people – lets hope they don’t suffer the same ignominy elsewhere on the tour.

Wintersleep, the second support , were also a band on my ‘want to see’ list. Welcome to the Night Sky is a fine album and they dutifully rolicked through some of the tracks including Drunk on Aluminium, Archaeologists and the like. The lead vocals, certainly at first, sounded like a pale imitation of those on record, but they did improve through the set. A good set, well delivered, it unfortunately to my mind went out on a bit of a duff track and would have been better using a more accessible and immediate song to leave with.

Editors came on all black and moody onto a black and moody stage with an industrial scale light wall behind and went straight into the opener and title track from the new album. Straight through into another two or three songs, mixing old and new. Although not a big fan of the Dépêche Mode era synth stuff, it must be said that the additions make a welcome change and enrichment of the sound, away from what is now a little predictable indie crash and wallop. Of the newer tracks, You Don’t Know Love and Eat Raw Meat=Blood Drool stood out as of course did Papillon as the penultimate encore (should have saved it ‘til last methinks). Papillon, with its disco syth overtones and the slightly bizarre ‘Kicks like a sleep twitch’ line, got me as close as I ever come to leaping up and down in front of the stage (so inelegant and unbecoming at my age).

Stroudie Tim Smith was in fine voice, lets hope it holds up for the full three months of the tour, a strangely rich and sonorous voice. Physically he is an odd amalgam of Ian Anderson and some hybrid Dickensian character – all distorted face expressions and striking demented angular poses, throwing himself around the stage with abandon.

The whole show was at full tilt, high energy, roaringly loud, blinding lights, Smiths frantic activity counterpointed by his colleagues restraint. The relative lack of interaction with the crowd or backchat reinforced the sense that here might be a band hoping for stadium access and the detached pomp and bombast that the show leaned towards. The vacuity of some of the lyrics is all the more apparent live, however it was impossible not to leave impressed, energised and more enthusiastic about Editors than I had dared hope

Editors website

Editors Myspace

Wintersleep Myspace

Airship Myspace

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Duke and The King – Nothing Gold Can Stay

I have come to this rather late, released this year but obviously early in the summer. Purchased now through the recommendation of our local independent record store Kanes Records in Stroud when I was wandering aimlessly looking for inspiration. The Duke and the King comprises Simone Felice (of the Felice Brothers), Bobby Bird, Reverend Loveday and Simi Stone and lay down some immensely satisfying , alt country/americana type music.

There was a strange sense of recognition of these tracks from the first listen, almost old favourites somehow.

Melancholic I think sums up the vibe throughout, a little weary and careworn. The short suite of ten songs all has a sense of longing, loss, of time passing, people making choices and finding themselves or those close to them in a place they hadn’t foreseen or imagined.

Driving across the lower Cotswolds towards Burford, all autumnal and changing, the end of another season, another summer gone, leaves turning golden and amber, seemed a highly appropriate context for hearing this wistful album for the first time. Maybe I am reading too much into it all but recognition of all our mortal destinies seems to resonate, perhaps a sense of regret even.

The Duke and the King Myspace

The Duke and the King Label

The Felice Brothers Myspace

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead

The second full length offering from the Twilight Sad sees them, if anything, darker and more unsettled than on Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters or the intervening EP's. Titles like I Became a Prostitute, The Neighbours Can't Breathe are testament to that. So too are the snatched lyrics - 'There's people downstairs', 'You're the bearer of a womb without love', ' They put up no fight.. we'll bury them all' - all lay down an underpinning but still opaque sense of threat and foreboding.

All sounds pretty gloomy stuff but there is something I can't stop listening to here. James Graham's vocals are in a heavy Glaswegian brogue that adds an urgency and directness to the already oddly threatening lyrics, Andy MacFarlanes sundry noises, accordion and signature guitar sound (reminiscent of the Kitchens of Distinction sound) are under scored by the bass lines and squelchy drum sounds from Craig Orzel and Mark Devine. Given the uncompromisingly miserabilist lyrics you do feel that a night out with Mr Graham might be quite a depressing affair.

Although so far it seems to be the early tracks of the album that have burned their way into the memory - especially I Became a Prostitute and Seven Years of Letters, I am sure that the later tracks will inveigle their way in, perhaps That Birthday Present for example (that really does sound like a very grumpy and miserable Kitchens of Distinction somehow)

Well really surely the clutch of Scottish bands must be complete now? Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks and There Will be Fireworks - to a man all with enigmatic band names. Worth a mention too that on the day of this new Twilight Sad album comes the official release of those other Scottish heroes Idlewild's latest and self released album, Post Electric Blues

Twilight Sad website
Twilight Sad Myspace
Idlewild website
Idelwild Myspace
Kitchens of Distinction Myspace
Stephen Hero/Kitchens of Distinction website