Sunday Afternoon with Goldheart Assembly and Roast Beef More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Goldheart Assembly at Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds

London five piece Goldheart Assembly have come to say Hello as they set up in the Nation of Shopkeeper on a Sunday afternoon. Roast beef dinners are served and the beer is passable so wasting an afternoon before the gig seems aimless fun.

The band are a fine bunch of lads - committed to their music and passionate about it - the sit in turns and chat about their Wolves And Thieves album and the horrors of half a dozen lads in a transit van. "If it is Tuesday then this must be Nottingham..."

Few bands are more worth pointing a person in the direction of than Goldheart Assembly making - as they do - a difference to a person's collection and coming from a set of influences which edge to a timeless quality. They give a breadth to your iPod.

Tonight they are in equal measure studious and passionate. They aim high and in songs like So Long St Christopher and King of Rome achieve it and when they do they inspire you to listen to more things, to rifle through a vinyl shop for some Gram Parsons, to expand your music.

No bad thing.

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Funny, Songs More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Flight Of The Conchords at Apollo, Manchester

There is a curiosity about New Zealand's world conquering Flight Of The Conchords which alienates as many as it enamours and it is that oddity is the heart of the Jermaine Clements and Bret McKenzie's performance at Manchester's Apollo.

The pair arrive to the stage in a blister of flashes wearing roughly hewn cardboard Robot helmets and hammer though fast tempo tune Too Many Dicks On the Dancefloor at a pace which lets any number of lyrical puns fly by and for a moment one is watching a band, playing music, which could be about anything. Moments later when settled onto stools and holding a pair of guitars they are telling self-depreciating stories about failure with various girls and at a few of life's minor activities.

It is observational comedy set to music and it works very well. A song like Foux du Fafa is smart enough to swerve away from poking fun at the French into amusing itself at the expense of those who put on an air of false sophistication, attention is required to note the difference. Songs like Business Time are greeted as crowd pleasers and the meaning seems to be lost.

When Conchords are best though is in the hard luck story set to music - real music not the whistles and bells of novelty - and in songs Carol Brown they have a template for a kind of humour which is enjoyable on both levels, as a song and an observation. It is bittersweet, for sure, but it is both funny and a song.

A rare combination.

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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.

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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.

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.

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