Shearwater project a vision amid a swelling atmosphere

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Black Diamond Bay supporting a joint headline of Clinic and Shearwater at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

This does not really work - this double headlining of curio Doctor dressed bassists Clinic and Austin, Texas atmosphereist Shearwater - but it is a noble experiment and one that serves the Brudenell Social Club well on this the final week before the influx of new students.

The aim hangs with that expectation - in a week's time countless eighteen year olds will bring a glorious newness to Headlingly in Leeds which serves as their City locked village but tonight those of us who are more permanent residents enjoy something more mellow.

First though - before the offshoot of the Okkervil River family tree that are Shearwater take to the stage - come Black Diamond Bay who style themselves as Electro-Folksters. They are fun in many ways most of which they probably do not intend to be. A chorus that runs "We'll stop carrying knives/if you stop bombing the fuck out of countries you don't like" is always going to run into criticisms for being a little too fourteen year old discovers politics but the singer - who dances purposefully - and his two backing singers who cut a Human League thrust - seem to really mean it and being earnest will always win points with me.

Besides at one point Black Diamond Bay make a noise thus: Bewoooewp! We really will always be together in electric dreams.

Clinic take to the stage dressed as Doctors and it almost seems like a bad joke when they tell us that the lead singer is ill but it seems that it was not and normally they have lyrics between the funked up sound which was pleasing enough.

More pleasing though are Shearwater who are a much more post-rock beast than the aforementioned Okkervil River with whom they share members playing out what sound to be a thousand different takes on soundtracks to Hitchcock's The Birds with last album Rook concerning itself with themes such as an avian conquest of the world of man.

It stirs the blood and focuses the mind with sharp picture framed lyrics picking out moments and freezing them. Auteur Jonathan Meiberg's rich, near pain near dread voice warns through the tails with the band and Clinic switch between two sets which breaks the atmosphere Shearwater create but leaves enough of an impression of a band with a vision and the ability to project it.

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, September 13th, 2009

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4 Responses to “Shearwater project a vision amid a swelling atmosphere”

  1. Jesse Says:

    In defense of the band, at least we can put together a cogent political statement, no matter how seemingly naive. Perhaps this ‘journalist’ could try to put together a cogent sentence in their next piece: ‘The Clinic take to the stage dressed as Doctors and it almost seems like a bad joke when they tell us that the lead singer is ill but it seems that it was not and normally they have lyrics between the funked up sound which was pleasing enough.’ We might sing like teenagers, but at least we don’t write like children.

  2. Michael Wood Says:

    We can certainly agree that you sulk like children. It is fair criticism, you should take it.

    The defence of your band is nothing of the sort but rather an ad hominim attempts to suggest that the comment is not valid. I think the sentence you pull out as “your defence” is perfectly fine if a little long but I’m not going to take issue with you if you do not.

    I really despair if a grown man believes that “We’ll stop carry knives if you stop bombing the Fuck out of countries you don’t like” is a cogent political statement. It is politically ill informed to the point where it becomes cringingly embarrassing to recall it. I’m not going to guess at your political beliefs but I doubt that you really believe that “dislike” is the cause of the conflicts you refer to. The fact that you can’t shoehorn something like “if you stop bombing the fuck out of only the countries where it best suits our strategic and financial interest and not others which have similar situations” into your lyric does not mean it is ok to trivialise a situation by distorting it. It is not seemingly naive, it is misrepresentative, or stupid, or both.

    If your summation of global politics is really that countries are attacked because other people “don’t like them” then you encapsulate it lyrically with deftness however I can’t shake the feeling that as a grown man you know very well how idiotic it sounds. I guess you have got your own motivations for trying to publicise yourself as psuedo-political but as a paying punter on the night I was far from impressed.

    Which comes back to the sulking and how to take criticism. You charge money to get into your gigs and you are paid for what you do. I’m one of the people who paid you (happy to do so, I’ve found loads of good music that way) so I’m going to say what I think.

  3. Jesse Says:

    Firstly, I doubt very much you are the author of that article, unless you were having a terrible day at the office. Your writing here if vastly improved. Well done.

    Secondly we were not paid for that gig. We are very rarely paid for our gigs. No doubt deservedly so, in your eyes. No, your money went into the pockets of a band who didn’t even bother to show up in their entirety.

    Thirdly are you really suggesting that it is facile to draw parallels between the violence of a government’s foreign policy and the increasingly vicious and inhumane behaviour of its own populace? We live in an increasingly violent society. There is much handwringing from politicians, too keen to demonize the nation’s youths as though their actions were perpetrated in some kind of vacuum, completely at odds with the peace loving inhabitants of the rest of the country. This song merely seeks to question the moral authority of our government. It flew into an unjust war on the pretext of a preemptive strike. There are parallels between those actions and the actions of a teenager who chooses to stab another because they have strayed onto their turf. Of course there are a whole phalanx of other contributing factors. Something i’d be happy to discuss with you at length as we seem to share many views on the matter. But as a bold political statement, drawing what I hoped would be a thought provoking analogy, I think the song deserves more credit than your belittling stance. How many songs do you hear on a daily basis that can foster this kind of debate? Is there not value in that alone? It is certainly more successful a piece of music than your article is a piece of writing.

    Perhaps if more people in this country appreciated the consequences of disenfranchised violence perpetrated against unknown ‘enemies’ we might not be living in such a dystopia.

    We have faced criticism in the past. We’re a band. All you ever do is put hours and hours of hard work and hopes and dreams on a stage and get praise, support, indifference or resentment. You can’t let the praise go to your head because the criticisms will cut deeper. But this critique just seemed idiotic. I mean, if I was to be operated on I’d expect the surgeon to be able to practice medicine. If i was to read an article, I’d expect the author to be able to write. That is after all where a journalist’s authority is earned – by their ability to research a piece and write it in a compelling fashion. Not only was the writing terrible, so was the research! It’s ‘Clinic’, not ‘The Clinic’. Where is the authority of this reviewer if they can’t even get the names of the bands right?

    Please, by all means continue to say what you think. Just practice your art like we practice ours. Otherwise you’re showing as much contempt for your own readers as you are for our music.

  4. Michael Wood Says:

    Thanks for the pick up on “The” Clinic.

    You make an interesting defence of the “Carrying Knives…” line but I simply do not think that those views are represented in the song. Is it a thought provoking analogy? Not for me. For me it is taking a complex subject and diluting it – dumbing it down if you want – into a soundbite and I don’t see any reason to be impressed by that.

    I’ve been doing this kind of writing for over ten years now and I’ve noticed a trend that comes whenever you criticise anyone or anything that others have a vested interest in be it a band, be it Spurs fans for singing The Sol Campbell song, be it Southend fans for racially abusing black players, be it Rochdale for – well best not said – or be it someone who thinks that Flash is a better technology than HTML/CSS you get the same kind of response.

    Varied attacks on the writing or the research and the odd mild slur. It is a waste of time even getting into the discussion – I doubt you would have complained about the writing his it sung your praises – so I’m not going to carry it on. It is not worth the time.

    To answer your point very briefly. Yes it wrote the article. This website has a great many articles of mine as do other websites and you can find a few the newspaper and magazine articles I have written. It is not for me to say if they are of good quality or not but I can guarantee to you that of I sign my name to something I have written it.

    In your second point you say that I think you would not deserve paying for gigs. I have never said this. Likewise later on your suggest I have shown contempt for your music. I’ve not done this either. In fact if you read the article back I say words like “entertaining” and compare you to The Human League which is no slight believe me.

    Which returns me to the point I begin with about The Spurs or Southend fans (on or the other bands I have commented on and why it is not worth my (or your) time with this. You have decided that what I have written encompasses every piece of criticism you can possibly imagine and as a result you are trying to take me to task for things that you have decided are my opinion rather than things in my review.

    You decide I have contempt for your music and think that you don’t deserve paying. I’ve not said that, I don’t think that, and I think you should take up your issues with someone who does. As you say you have faced criticism in the past. This review offers you a dialogue with someone who had criticised you but there is no way I can – or will – be held accountable for all the criticism you have had and I’m not answering for things I’ve not said.

    If you have a problem with other people who hold your music in contempt take it up with them, not me.

    I’m happy with the review and how it characterises the bands – “The” Clinic aside – but thanks for your comments and I hope you feel like you’ve had your say in reply.

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