May 5th, 2010

The Young Knives and Staying on Track More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

The Young Knives at Moho, Manchester

It is lazy reviewing that brands The Young Knives as the nerd band but there is something about the oft Tweed clad trio that suggests that if they were not playing guitars in Manchester tonight they would be recovering from a tough day at work.

One can be too interested in the look of things. The sound of the band, and the interesting lyrical content, counters the visuals.

Tonight they are trying out new material, shaping things up for an album to come, and there is enough to suggest that release will be worth hearing. The criminally under appreciated Superabundance gets some play. The band attack each tune with a vigour and energy that shakes off the cerebral and feeds the emotion.

One wonders what is next for the band. The big time probably does not await, but one hopes they carry on along the same path.

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

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April 29th, 2010

Few prizes for lack of originality at The Futureheads More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Thursday, April 29th, 2010

The Postelles, Dutch Uncles and The Futureheads at The Cockpit, Leeds

As Sunderland pop-punk foursome The Futureheads finish a sterling and energetic set with a double of the (in)famous cover of Hounds Of Love and a song called Jupiter which they call their Bohemian Rhapsody one is left with the feeling that music seldom rewards the unoriginal.

Two hours previously New Yorkers The Postelles had entertained The Cockpit with a fairly faithful rendition of The Ramones's Beat On The Brat and while it was - as was the rest of the set - entertaining it was hardly innovative.

Indeed seldom does one see a band so obviously wearing its influence so obviously. The Postelles charm is that they mix the New York punky sound of a Blondie or Ramones with the pop sensibilities of The Beach Boys but that charm seems set to be their limitation too. It is fine for a band to be the entertaining sum of its parts, but sometimes you should not show the working out of that sum.

One wonders how this will hamper the accent of The Postelles. Many worse bands earn a living and many bands do what they do less well, but they break no new ground and music seldom rewards the lack of originality that comes with doing something well that has been done before.

Case in point at Dutch Uncles who take the second support slot and labour through an unengaged set. Perhaps tonight is a bad night for them - they seem to lack a spark - but perhaps they too are a little too obvious, a little too an answer the sum of which is too easily calculated: Dutch Uncles equals Devo plus Talking Heads over Franz Ferdinand.

Franz Ferdinand were a peer of The Futureheads when the bands broke and the two have had divergent careers with Franz Ferdinand consider more innovative, ergo better.

The Sunderland lads carve a niche out playing a kind of fast paced pop which no one will ever claim is a new discovery but when the spring from Decent Days & Nights to The Beginning of The Twist they do so with a passion and an élan.

Yet it is for the cover version of Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love - the song that guitarist and leader Ross probably heard through floorboards as his mum washed up to it - that the band get most regard and the best reaction.

The roar of approval is noticeable and slightly saddening. The take on the song is everything that the rest of the set is not. It is innovative, it is a fresh take on things, but it seems a novelty and to laud a cover in the face of a band who are treading an albeit well worn path with such vigour and no little smarts underestimates what The Futureheads can do.

Alas music seldom rewards anything other than innovation and often ignores repeated quality.

Written By Michael Wood Thursday, April 29th, 2010

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March 17th, 2010

The Magnetic Fields Play Place Like This More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

The Magnetic Fields at Manchester Cathedral, Manchester

On a low stage at the grand auspice of Manchester Cathedral The Magnetic Fields are a curious enchantment. The first popular music band to perform in the religious hall since the 17th century Stephin Merritt - perched on a stool some two meets from the front row of the audience growls through Popa Was A Rodeo intoning "What are we doing in this dive bar/how can we live in a place like this? sweeping his arm behind him to the grandiose splendour.

The question is valid and sticks in the mind. How did the dour gay New Yorker, a refined singer, a cello player, a classic guitarist and the omni-talented Claudia Gonson end up with this level of respectability? One doubts that this night was ever part of any plan. It is a delicious irony and one which does not go unmentioned. From the underrated last twenty three of 69 Love Songs comes Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget - a double header:

Merritt: I'll turn into God Himself and then you'll come to me
Gonson: Well I will not believe in you and then where will you be...

Arriving late three seats in the front row are waiting for us for no good reason as if Merritt were about to dismount his stool and in the style of the new offensive comedians start abusing audience members who feared being sighted.

The inner workings of The Magnetic Fields at close range is a sight to behold and for a time one wonders if Merritt is really permanently annoyed - it would seem from his expression he is tonight - and that Gonson is that vivacious. An attempt to swipe guitarist John Woo and cello man Sam Devol's shared songbook is rebuffed by one of the crew after the gig. "They keep working on it, you know, changing things each night" he says "so they still need it."

For some it is as entrancing as music gets. Seated and discouraged from applauding it is more a performance than a gig and as such it obeys rules if not of the classic theatre then of the theatrical review. Kiss Me Like You Mean It is chutzpah, Shipwrecked bawdy comedy, Night Falls Like A Grand Piano definitive, and heartbreaking.

The Magnetic Fields are an acquired taste though - there are elements of tweeness and reverence in the audience which border on the grotesque - but one with substance. Departing on train it is speculated that should all be killed in a hideous ball of fire in a crash then, on balance, it would have been a good night.

Inspiring cynical lyricism in that way before The Magnetic Fields are infectious.

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

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February 26th, 2010

Field Music and Music Measurement in Leeds More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, February 26th, 2010

Field Music at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

I once stood next to Field Music man Peter Brewis as we crossed the road at the traffic lights near Jesmond Metro Station in Newcastle. He is a short man and has a haircut which is never going to be described as fashionable. On and off stage he looks - well - not very cool.

He takes to the stage with brother David and two ancillary members and looks little different as the band skip through a catalogue of six years that culminates in the critically lauded Field Music (Measure) album. A band matured, a band who have had time to create something

Field Music at the Brudenel Social Club in Leeds is a busy night populated by a crowd a good ten years older than last week's North Eastern invasion. There is talk in the air about the achievement that is Field Music (Measure) and how organic the growth that came via two side projects - a School of Language is played tonight - and a spell in hiatus.

Perhaps it is the distinct lack of the kind of cool that record companies are so quick to pick up and drop that has allowed Field Music to craft their indie prog rock narratives. Songs like A House Is Not A Home are long standing in the canon of work and show the promise delivered with the likes of Them That Do Nothing.

At times the evening's fair starts to sound a little too similar - the band are guilty of taking the same tune out a few times as one might suspect from an outfit who have released a double album in these days of downloads - but everything on Seamonsters sounds the same and more than one of people here would sight that as an album of quality.

A thoughtful band given time to grow and bloom, to measure only to themselves.

Written By Michael Wood Friday, February 26th, 2010

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February 19th, 2010

Little Comets ask if we really need The Geordie Nation playing Graceland? More

Club NME Specials Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, February 19th, 2010

Little Comets, The Chapman Family and Frankie and the Heartstrings Club NME Specials at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

A few years ago I was in a round table discussion over the new bands of a year that promised Vampire Weekend which someone described as "The Strokes playing Graceland". On hearing the preppy New Yorkers I remarked that they sounded more like Paul Simon playing Graceland and the debate moved onto the way that the beloved NME had a habit of describing bands in reference to other bands conjoined with a few outlandish phrases.

"Debbie Harry punching 10CC in the face with a knuckle duster that was previously used on Led Zep" is great to read but says nothing. Such is the problem with talking about music. One needs references but references pigeon hole and that is far too restrictive for something as sprawled as tunesmithery.

Nevertheless watching NME's wandering night of bands and see Newcastle four piece Little Comets one is forced to ask if we really need The Geordie Nation playing Graceland. Which is not to say that Little Comets are over reliant on the bunch of World Music clichés which have come to be summed up by the word Graceland in the last few years just that the 1986 album would feature in some musical Venn diagram of their output.

So, I speculate, would many other things. They have the regulation indie influences that come strapped to an electric guitar on purchase for sure - a dash of The Libertines colours everything since - but they add to it is smart pop sensibility constructing nice three minute pop songs in a traditional manner. Perhaps that goes through a prism of a circuit in the North East which is rich with esoteric acts and high on narrative drama.

Joanna is the most obviously comparable tune but it is own way the song plays with those comparisons name checking with a knowingness. Do we need a bunch of Geordies playing Graceland? Certainly we do, especially when thrown into such an interesting mix that produces such an enjoyable broth. They are like Sting being force fed mushy peas by Tony Lacey while Diana Ross plays tennis, or something.

One Night In October lives long in the memory and Little Comets one regards a band worthy your attention I would say, and certainly commanding of mine.

Worth someone else's attention are The Chapman Family who strike the right notes for some but not for me. They are a touch on the heavier side although there style varies to a lighter shade at some points during the set. At times drop into a pastiche of Ian Curtis vocals which is a shame. Perhaps they are Joy Division weeping when listening to The Who while queueing for toilet at Guy Garvey's bar. Certainly Guy Garvey's bar's toilets are enough to reduce anyone to tears.

The bassist does mean things to a guitar but the singer should avoid wrapping the mic lead around his neck, it left a curious taste it the mouth. The kids are into them enough for me to say that they are ticking many boxes for many people.

Ticking other boxes are Frankie and the Heartstrings who plough the same furrow as Wild Beasts (...while being licked by Ross from The Futureheads who is drinking Sherry from a bottle he stole from Angela Lansbury) or The Sugars and in the song Hunger they have one of the catchiest things that could buzz into your head. They make a good account of themselves and fill the stage with a confident energy. They have growing to do as a band - perhaps like The Crookes need to they will find they grow away from such obvious rockabilly referencing - but should they expand in the right directions they could be very interesting indeed.

Written By Michael Wood Friday, February 19th, 2010

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