Fourteen Corners

Blue Roses arrive leaving memories and feeling More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, May 1st, 2009

Fourteen Corners, Jeremy Warmsley and Blue Roses Blue Roses Album Launch Night at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Something is wrong with Fourteen Corners. The usual chime of note perfection is failing West Yorkshire's leading band - here in Leeds's Brudenell Social Club as second support at the Blue Roses album launch - is lacking and Luke Silcock's guitar stumbles with a harsh twang through the opening We Are Pathetic, We Are Stars and stutters into The Walk Home.

None of this would be rare for most but Corners can pride themselves - should pride themselves - of getting the best sound in whichever arena they play be it pub or concert hall or strange mix of the two as Brudenell Social Club. One half expects to have a meat draw between songs or bingo numbers called but this Working Men's Club setting is the home of the non-workers, the students, of Leeds now. A mile or so away from the City Centre I muse for a moment on how this gig would have suited the long dead Duchess of York on Vicar Lane, Leeds. That is now a Hugo Boss shop.

By the time the second tune concludes Silcock's guitar has been tamed and Corners are back to the limitless wonders of the Bradford Music Scene which produce the main act tonight. Josh Taylor's vocals are sung with an unoften heard confidence but never with arrogance and they are layered over a set of melodies and tunes as distinctive from one another as the words that are delivered. Mike Wilson's bass and Marco Pasquaiello drums are pulse with an anticipation. One worries that the time for this band has come and gone and that they will leave behind memories of gigs and of tunes but no work and no album to march on as a memento of the excellence.

May The Days Be Aimless hows with a longing - "I know somethings wrong/Hold on now" - and I'm suddenly recasting Corners on the stage where fifteen months ago Okkervil River burst into my consciousness as that kind of spirited storyteller. The set continues and Silcock is back at million mile an hour fingering on his awakened guitar which drops as Taylor intones "To have no is to live without."

Fourteen Corners add another new song which tips hats to Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout and I'm struck by how many times I've heard musicians - good ones too - mumble about how the set up and the sound was wrong and how that is never the case with this collective who master the environment they play in. They finish the set with New Limbs for Old Flames and I doubt I will see a better band tonight or during these three days of Live in Leeds which turns out to be a prediction out by just one.

Second on Jeremy Warmsley proudly announces that he had Blue Roses's Laura Groves supporting her in what was the singer's first gig and I hear my Dad's voice drifting into my cerebrum pointing out that he did the sound at the King's Arms in Bradford for her before then. It is a measure of cultural size when one's parents have heard of the thing you like. Former The Letters and current The Hobbes Fanclub guitarist Leon Carroll confirms that his Dad was also impressed that someone his band had the vaguest connection too (Blue Roses producer Marco Pasquaiello did the sound at The Letters gigs) was being reviewed in the Time and the Observer.

Warmsley hits feedback in his first song. He is acoustic and mellow making the kind of observations on life that would be on Jarvis Cocker's Twitter account and not his albums. His voice recalls Rufus Wainwright but his songs have the importance of everything The Lightning Seeds did that was not The Nearly Man which is not to say he was not good just that he was not weighty which in itself could have charm but tonight does not seem to. Perhaps it is the between song stories which paint him in an ill light or perhaps it is the fact that he falls a little too easily into Geek Chic to not do so consciously.

All that said he enjoys a couplet or two but "If he breaks your heart/I'll brakes his legs" rings hollow. Perhaps it is a stab at irony but too often irony masks a lack of truth and honesty of emotion is everything in song writing - or at least it is to me.

It was that honesty that interested me when I first heard Laura Groves - now Blue Roses - play her songs about Filey and the curved road down to Shipley station. Not the proximity or the fidelity to events but rather the resonance with a life I could empathise with. At the end of 2006 people I recall her voice standing out amongst the likes of The Streets and thinking that hers was the language of dreaming rather than urban nightmares and the broken down mundane.

Taking to the middle of the Brudenell stage Laura there is an air of anticipation. She is joined by Hannah Tidewell on violin and in front off the stage a small sit in has emerged - cross legged and ready for story time - which I join. I feel a burst of near paternal pride. This thing which I have evangelised to all who would hear is about to be shared. I gather thoughts for a moment now on how lucky I have been to catalogue this emergence - although that has been fortunate - but on how much pleasure every trip to The Love Apple or to Fagins, to St George's Hall or around Leeds last year watching this extraordinary performer has brought me.

And so into Greatest Thoughts and their is a silence and an appreciation for some but me I can see the evidence of metamorphosis. I feel I have watched for sometime but cannot tell you when the 21 year old Laura became this performer of depth and range and personality and confidence. These things where there for sure but when did they eclipse? When did they converge? I have watched the progression but I could not tell you when the shoulder became the neck nor when the arm became the wrist. At what point the girl from Shipley on the guitar became a performer of great merits but that she has.

Second is I Am Leaving which overcomes running repairs on the sound system. There is a feeling that there are new people here, people who are not used to the cues but are appreciative. They clap in all the wrong places but that warms the heart. They are new and they are converted. Coast - the song about Filey which first won me over - is picked out on an acoustic guitar maintaining a delicacy despite the layering of a violin to support and everything is how one would have hoped it would be.

Fourteen Corner's Josh Taylor joins for Does Anyone Love Me Now? softly adding a beat behind and I notice that the capo on the end of Groves's guitar turns and curls as a cello would and I am struck with the sadness of the song for the first time in the emote of the lyric "I tried so hard and for so long/but by the time I woke up you were gone."

A great performance should bring out new things from old songs. My favourite live renditions I've heard came last year with The Magnetic Fields imbuing Popa Was a Rodeo with a stark honesty I found utterly disarming and the aforementioned Okkervil River's A Stone bleeding from stage to audience. These songs were good that became great in performance. These are my pantheon. I'm not mentioning Blue Roses in the same breath, not yet, but only not yet.

Marco Pasquaiello - producer of the album and man on the rise - joins for Rebecca with Groves picking up an electric guitar over her acoustic and dipping deep into the soul to craft something of captive joy. Rebecca the song, Blue Roses the album, Laura, Marco, Josh and Hannah and these nights. These things are burnt into my mind and encapsulated in the optimistic advisory lyric "Turn yourself around/You can do better/Turn yourself around/Make yourself better" delivered here with an earnest gusto and never to be forgotten.

I muse on how watching Blue Roses is a holistic experience and how I can see parts of other bands I've watched over the past three years along with the Kate Bush parts of my Mum's record collection. I think about how the music comes from the surrounding area - from Shipley's Clock Tower of my student days to the East Coast of my young holidays. Perhaps it seems personal to everyone here, or perhaps just to me.

By the time Doubtful Comforts begins I'm aware of how Blue Roses and Laura Groves have drifted away into something bigger, something wider, something with depth and height and breadth and something else. If my chest were a ocean the waves of pride would be Tsunami. Solo - the very well hidden track on the album - references the Wizard of Oz which seems appropriate and finally I Wish I... grows and swell to the point of awe with Laura's vocal gymnastics something of a special effect, a fireworks show, a layer atop but not to distract from the core and that core being an honesty coupled with a ability which is now untethered and gloriously drifts on like a balloon loosed on a blue summers day.

She returns alone to whittle through Can't Sleep and in the last verse picks out a bum note or two. Diligently she looks down and corrects herself continuing with no fuss.

The last swallow of the summer that goes unnoticed. The last kiss.

Near to the dance, into a bracket, out of the corner More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Brackets, Fourteen Corners and Far from The Dance at 1-22 Bar, Huddersfield

Local young things Brackets start with Theme from Peter Gunn and sound interesting until singer Jamie Goodwin starts with a placeless accent that lacks any ring of authenticity. Not that the young lad is a poor singer just that he is looks do not match his voices and the band - playing a rapid rock - never seen to be able to decide what sort of song they want to play.

All of which tempts one to say they avoid falling into any bracket but it would be more truthful to say that as a band they lack direction. A cover of Vampire Weekend's A-Punk shows them as able imitators until accent safari begins again. After some solid if unremarkable own compositions - She's Afraid of the Dark is worth mentioning - that include a pulsing bass line that nod towards Peter Hook a King's of Leon cover sets teeth on edge and presents a band who badly need to find their own sound and play that rather than swimming around the tunes they listen to.

By contrast if there are a band in West Yorkshire with more of a firm grasp of what they want to sound like and how they want to put that sound over than Fourteen Corners then I have yet to see it. The corners are shaking off rust from six months on the sidelines but still fuzz along with an electric authenticity. Tsotsumi is back in the set and Small Northern Town is out with "the new rocker" thrown in to impressive effect adding to what is in this humble opinion the finest song book of any unsigned band in this area.

The future for T' The Corners is always the subject of speculation. What justice does the world have that these people are playing pubs and The Pigeon Detectives play Millennium Square in Leeds? Once again singer Josh Taylor pulls out from his heart for New Limbs For Old Flames and once more Luke Silcock's fingers dart around the fret board of his guitar mesmerisingly. Both join with bass man Mike Wilson to turn to face drummer Marco Pasquariello building up to May Your Days Be Aimless and as a band vibing off each other they seem as ready as any I have seen. At the start of May they play support to Blue Roses at Live in Leeds and one can only hope those who have justifiably taken that slice of the almost dead Bradford music scene to heart will pick up a torch for Fourteen Corners.

Having returned from that London Far From The Dance are Huddersfield's next musical output and the studied, precise set suggests they have not been broken by their experiences in the capital. They have a sound that swims between Manic Street Preachers and British Sea Power while draped over the kind of post-rock soundscapes that are alluring - if not popularist - on a Friday evening in West Yorkshire. Not popularist but popular and they are well loved by a home crowd. The stage craft needs some work - the length of time spent watching bands tune up seems inversely proportional to how successful they will ultimately be - but the song book is vibrant and their aim is true.

Dalliance at Live at Leeds More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Le Tournoi, Pulled Apart By Horses, Fourteen Corners, The Sugars, Dinosaur Pile Up, The Debuts, Laura Groves Live At Leeds, Leeds

I'm Michael Wood and I'm late - this is why - and am stuck on a bus next to a woman who thinks you make Hummus with Yoghurt. Leeds is a traffic jam to get into and while I'm here I've missed Heads We Dance and the first half of Le Tournoi at The upstairs bit at Cockpit as the all day get in anywhere with your wrist band event begins.

Le Tournoi have dropped the old organised shambles approach to performance and put together a tighter, more focused set. The new guy Kez provides a focus - something that Bradford music gaffer Mark Husak noted as he booked them to support Lightspeed Champion in a few weeks - and everything about the band rumbles along more efficiently. They lag a few bands in the Bradford scene a little having shot out of the traps initially but they are never anything less than facinating to watch and they end this set strongly in the early heat of the under-roof in Leeds' leading venue.

A walk about downstairs for a pint and cut in front of someone at the bar. faces are familiar and a rush of people head off to Pulled Apart By Horses in the main room and I've heard good things so I head to the front only to be pushed back by the volume of a band who seem to have mistaken loud for melody, vocal acumen or even making sounds that don't sound like car crashes.

I feel disappointed cause I hoped for better and old because I'm at a gig complaining that the music is too loud and I remember hearing Nirvana in a pub in this City and they didn't have to turn everything up to eleven cause they could rock and write a bridge. I still feel old but am justified in being unimpressed.

I'm always impressed with Fourteen Corners who have a new bassist - Hi new guy - and the set of superb tunes that are a cut above almost everything else that will be heard in the City today. Josh tells us he is sweating and Luke offers the audience "It's getting hot in here", arching an impressive eyebrow, "so take off all your clothes."

The idea of Fourteen Corners master stage craft amuses me for a minute and I hear how the songs mix together better now than they did when I first saw them. I talk to Josh later and he says that he thinks Luke is ace on guitar. I like it when bands get on together and that reminds me how the Pixies used to hate each other really and how I got into a discussion with the bloke who I cut in front of at the bar about how The Pixies were not as good as Throwing Muses/Belly because they were not as honest. Fourteen Corners are honest.

The taxi driver who takes us to Brudenell Social Club is not honest and rips us off for a pound but we are just in time to see The Sugars who are a kind of throwback to a time when looking a bit like Elvis was just being fashionable and when singing "Do-Wop" into a microphone - and The Sugars use beauitful looking microphones - did not have you dubbed and dismissed as a do-wop band.

They are a smarter band than they are often given credit for and they have some tunes worth hearing - hear them at the Love Apple soon - and if you like Metric but thought they needed White Stripe levels of energy then get down to see them.

In the end the only gripe with The Sugars is that while the tall blondeness and the grease hair quiff at the front are individually good they lack chemistry in a serious way and they need to get along better.

Getting along - or rather getting - was the order of the day piling back to The Cockpit to see Dinosaur Pile Up who made a fiver taxi ride and a route march past an old work place (Lower Basinghall Street dontchaknow) worthwhile.

Dinosaur Pile Up are Matt Bigland - one time of Mother Vulpine - and a guy playing fuzzy bass and a fuzzy guy playing drums and they are brilliant. They have added three new songs to the set since last time and each one bristles brilliantly with intelligence, with guitar hum and with melody thudded between slabs of noise.

Unlike Pulled Apart By Horses The Pile Up have the control and the belief to bring vocals - My Rock n' Roll brings smiles to the face, I Get My Direction From is pure Pavement - up the mix and let the guitars thump with tunes. They are the best band on today and they show it.

They are the peak and Le Tournoi's drummer James and Tim of the Chiara L's (bloke of a work mate of mine - Hi Lisa) are equally enthused and for a minute the strands of my life push together. In a little while I will be introducing Laura Groves to a man called Greasy.

Next though are The Debuts who are a massive disappointment taking sombre to a place it should not go - disinterested - and missing the diffidence of shoegazing leaving the impression that they would rather the audience were not in the room and on that point I agreed with them.

They attempt a threaded vocal through a layer or two of guitar but fail and come over as neither interesting or energetic and no one really seems to be having much fun although the applause after each song suggests that my views are not universal. I hear myself mumble "All the songs sound the same" and remember hearing someone once say that about my favourite album.

My favourite album of this year could well be the whatever comes out of Laura Groves - and I mean that in a much nicer way that it sounds - and the Shipley singer is spellbinding tonight keeping a roomful of weary gig goers enchanted streaming lyrics around and about and pulling you into her world or trails and optimism.

She plays - in my opinion - her best ever version of Can't Sleep and pulls her soul out for Imaginary Flights. She signs one fan's single afterwards as I queue - with Greasy - to congratulate her on a great performance.

The night was not going to get any better than that so at eight I depart for Bradford happy that my Live at Leeds let me see a fist full of great acts.