Friday, 25 July 2014

Live Review: The Twilight Sad (GetIntoThis)

The Twilight Sad
East Village Arts Club
12th July, 2014

With the notion of an album and its importance within this modern, content starved digital music scene still up for debate, there is something quite comforting about a band touring one of their records in full. It speaks volumes for the quality of an album that a band like The Twilight Sad feel confident enough in themselves, and in their audience, to be able to do so with a collection of songs from a single body of work written just seven years ago. I mean, usually when a band or artists decides to tour an album, the set list will still be punctuated by hits from other records and the track list might not even run in the correct order. There’s an argument for guitar bands that an album should always be able to translate it into a full live performance, with a coherency and understanding running from the closing chords of each song to the opening clash of the next. I mean, if this his is what makes a great album, why shouldn’t it be the defining feature for a great live set? So with tonight’s show and the rest of this ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ Tour, The Twilight Sad are reverting back to touring in its simplest, its most basic, but perhaps its purest form.

In the aggressively Scottish James Graham, The Twilight Sad are blessed with a great, powerful front man. And the intensity of their music would settle for nothing less, with the growl of guitar feedback and the crash of rolling cymbals all culminating in Graham’s deep, penetrating stare from behind the microphone. The roll of the R as he screams ‘…Red sky at night’ on opener Cold Days From The Birdhouse could almost be graceful, if he wasn’t convulsing and gyrating between vocal passages like Ian Curtis having an exorcist. Staring into a corner of the room and not directly at the crowd, Graham creates the illusion that he is singing these songs directly at a singular character. It deeply personalizes them, something that is often lost in a live show, and makes the delivery of every lyric feel like a powerful moment of catharsis for him and the band.

None of the exhaustive levels of guitar feedback or the wall of sound textures are lost tonight. The contrast in dynamic between the verse and chorus of Talking With Fireworks / Here It Never Snowed provides an obvious peak, and distills everything that makes tonight’s show and the album great. Graham’s ability to suck every bit of emotion out of non-specific phrases such as ‘With a knife in your chest’, works with the bands knack for making even the most ludicrous level of noise and timbre still feel like a moment of vulnerability, to create a performance almost overwrought with passion.

Despite their shoegazing qualities, with a few of clicks on the guitar pedal these songs could almost fit on a U2 album, never shying away from the dramatic or histrionic like many of their noise mongering contemporaries. This is what makes The Twilight Sad so enduringly popular and able to tour an album in full as if they were veterans rinsing a final payday out of an old masterpiece. Tonight’s performance absolutely justifies its position as a modern classic, with every moment feeling like a deserved celebration for anyone who has ever spent time and been moved by it. This is a band carving diamonds out of the rough, searching for the significance and the profound in the more mundane areas of life in a way that never tries to offer a solution because they know that the most important part is the journey towards it.

Mike Townsend

Live Review: Slow Club (BidoLito!)

The Kazimier
8th July 2014

Timing is important for a touring band. Got an established back catalogue and army of fans behind you? You can probably play whenever the fuck you want. Only got a handful of demos to your name? Go ahead and book dates at your leisure because lets be honest, no one gives a shit anyway. Days away from the release of your third album? You’re in no man’s land, as you attempt to establish the identity of your latest musical direction without alienating the fans that you’ve picked up along the way. This is especially true for a band like SLOW CLUB, whose sound and general aesthetic has evolved significantly over the course of three albums. Their debut effort Yeah, So? treaded tenuously around the notion of twee, with lyrics such as ‘Will you hold my hand when I go?’ delivered just sharply enough to uncover some human complexity behind their structural simplicity. The follow up, the excellent Paradise, expanded both in concept and in timbre, thrusting them into the echelons of the countries best indie pop songwriters and shaking off any perception that they are just a boy-girl duo singing about love and cupcakes and all the rest. With Complete Surrender and Suffering You, Suffering Me, Slow Club have implied a sense of nostalgia for album number three, exploring the forms and melodies of fifties pop songs in a way that’s more forward facing that we’ve seen from the band before.

MOATS are one of the best new bands in Liverpool right now, propping up the bill with some snarling guitar rousers reminiscent of early Liars. Guitar bands needs front men though, and Moats are blessed with a great one, balancing between the notions that he’s either a bit of a dickhead or he’s just fucking with us in a way that all the best rock stars do. Having just played Austin City Limits off the back of support from The NME, its impressive to see them continue to express what they’re about on stage with such conviction.

A poor sound technician kicks over a customized synth during sound check, rendering it all but useless, much like his resulting employability. We are very much being ‘road tested’ tonight, and it shows. The set-list is almost being made up on the spot, as Rebecca Lucy Taylor offers apologies for the ramshackle nature of the evening and of the performances around her. Vocally though, Taylor is typically brilliant, turning at times arbitrary lyrics like ‘The greatest book you ever read came from my favorites list’ (Beginners), or ‘I think that next summer if we’re still alive/we should try’ (If We’re Still Alive) into rousing statements, as these songs that can be delicate at heart are blithely turned into anthems.   

The glaring omission of any material from their first album is a head scratcher. I mean, their sound and confidence both as songwriters and performers has visibly grown in the years since its release, so it is understandable that they might want to distance themselves from it. This complete detachment though, especially in favour of so many new, unheard tunes, disconnects them from the audience in a way that turns the gig from a communal celebration into a show and tell, forcing the audience to try and make sense of these new tunes on the spot and in turn, losing that ‘in the moment’ feeling that we, as gig-goers, crave. There is little doubt that the new album will be a belter, which will continue to propel Slow Club’s stratospheric rise. Yet despite the special moments, like the heart-wrenching crack in Charles Watson’s voice during a solo performance of Horses Jumping, or the gorgeous harmonies during Never Look Back, tonight feels worryingly underprepared.

Mike Townsend