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gig reviews - march 07


 
 

Get Cape.Wear Cape.Fly + Pull Tiger Tail + The Dykeenies
27.03.07 - Bristol Academy

Opening act The Dykeenies are fairly pleasant to listen to but nothing outstanding. They sound like they should be playing in the background of The OC or some other cheesy American programme. I'm sure they'll go down a treat with anyone who likes The Killers but I found their performance static and the songs easily forgettable amid the joy that followed.

Pull Tiger Tail take to the stage opening with the jagged angular rock of 'Mr 100%'. Comparisons to Bloc Party and We Are Scientists are inevitable although probably justified, but you'd have to throw at least a dozen other bands in there to cover the whole "sounds like ..." list. I can see how it would be easy to dismiss these guys as another "by numbers" band on hearing one or two songs, but this set is one of the most wonderfully diverse sets I've seen a band play for quite a while. Sometimes the songs are led by spiky delay-drenched guitars, sometimes electro-synth keyboards, sometimes the thumping drumbeat drives the song. There are wonderful vocal melodies, well-crafted musical hooks and singalong lyrics, it's the musical equivalent of a schoolyard pile-on! While songs like the almost shoegaze-esque 'Hurricane' and the electro-pop 'Even Good Kids Make Bad Sports' show this pony has a decent repertoire of tricks to show off, the real genius lies in the catchy pop songs. 'Animator' is a perfect summer anthem that would make even Victor Meldrew smile, but it's the beautiful soaring melodies of current single Lets Lightning that provide a wonderful finale

One by one the members of the Get Cape family take the stage and despite some early issues with the sound run through a series of tracks from their recent album with well-rehearsed ease. The performance is a more professional one than when I saw them live about 6 months ago. My main gripe with GCWCF is the same one I had then; the music is brilliant and i respect the guy for trying to promote a message, but there always seems to be a point (or three) during a Get Cape gig where the message becomes more important than the music and he spends a little too much time trying to get his point across. Anyway, with the Billy Bragg-wannabe stuff out the window Sam's free to carry on with what he does best, and it's a heaven for anyone who loves to singalong at gigs, never more so than the final song of the encore 'War Of The Worlds' where Sam challenges the crowd to see how far through the song they can get without his help. He joins in halfway through but I'm pretty sure they could manage the whole song!

Jam

 
 

The Archie Bronson Outfit
21.3.07 – The Scala, London 

On first impressions I’m not sure I like The Scala that much as a venue. The performance area is a pit surrounded by raised platforms, railings, and a sound cage at the rear, all-in-all very much the kind of place more suited to an illegal bare-knuckle boxing match than live music. Then again, it might just be because this was a very packed and, therefore, cramped gig.  

Support act Tucker is a man who likes his loops. As one never-ending drone segues into another, he layers further guitar and vocals over the top and tries to ignore the rising tide of audience chatter that threatens to drown out his efforts. Fair enough, his stuff is rather repetitive and not necessarily in a good way, but there was no need for one wag to shout “You’re shit” at his retreating form. 

The ABO keep us waiting a little while, during which time more people come flooding in and things start to get a little uncomfortable. For a start, I’m a few inches over 6 feet, so how is it that I always get someone of equal or greater height stood directly in front of me? It’s as though they do it on purpose, the bastards. My friend and I promptly relocate to the rear-centre of the room, only for two girls behind us to start complaining to each other about their view being obscured. At least I think that’s what they were doing. Either way, the best place for munchkins is down the front. 

The Archies stride onstage, four hairy oiks, and I look forward to seeing whether they can live up to their reputation as a live act to be reckoned with. In truth, it takes until the third song of their set, “Kink”, for them to warm up, but by that time drummer Mark Cleveland is already dripping with sweat. Indeed, he is probably the most visually interesting member, flailing away at his kit whilst keeping perfect, heavy time. It’s a shame I can’t see him properly without standing on tip-toe, what with having the back of someone’s head mere inches from my left eye. Bassist/guitarist Dorian Hobday, meanwhile, looks at times as though he’s in the grip of some religious fervour. 

Singer Sam Windett is comparatively restrained, although he can still produce some impressively emotive wailing with what looks like the minimum of effort. It appears that he’s not a happy bunny this evening, thanks to some sound issues. Twice he travels across the stage between songs to reason with the engineer, and later even goes so far as to suggest, half-jokingly, that any disgruntled punters should “rough him up a bit”. As a first-timer, it sounds fine to me, but for the band the frustration is obvious.  

They should give themselves a break though; their blend of ultra-heavy blues/jazz is toe-tappingly infectious. “Darts for My Sweetheart”, for which they bring on a female vocalist, comes alive in a way it never did on record, and pockets of devotees are moved to leap around like they’ve got snakes in their boots. That lost momentum is never quite recaptured, but that’s still no reason to categorise tonight’s performance as a failure, especially as they’ve earned themselves at least one new fan during the course of it.
www.archiebronsonoutfit.net

Will Columbine

 
 

Goldie Lookin Chain
15.3.07 - ULU

A wise man once said "that joke isn't funny anymore" and that certainly applies tonight, although some are unsure whether the GLC gimmick was ever that funny in the first place. I felt a distinct sense Louis Theroux-esque perplexedness as I watched the hundreds gathered guffaw and cheer at the prospect of Maggot having "taken three shits before he came onstage", and practically spitting their lager on each other over a raps about "grandma sex", the menopause and failed attempts at football stardom.  

Harmless but tedious.

Sam Edwards

 
 

Badly Drawn Boy (with special guest Malcolm Middleton)
19.2.07 - Leeds City Varieties Theatre 

If you thought you’d seen a performance like opener Malcolm Middleton’s, ‘one-man and his guitar’, a hundred times before, then you’d be wrong. Despite a slow, and slightly dull start, it became clear that beneath the monotone and deadpan façade lay the heart of a true comedian. Half way through the second song, the audience had cottoned onto the dry humour lacing the otherwise melancholy and valium-inducing songs, such as “We’re all going to die…”, and started to appreciate the act for what it was. It’s really refreshing to hear a broad Scottish accent proudly breaking its way out through a song, without being disguised behind a pseudo yank drawl. What would have otherwise been categorised as fairly ordinary commercial soft rock songs, were elevated above the rest by great guitar interludes, clever tongue in cheek humour, and a Scottish lilt, making this one act I’d recommend to go and see. 

As for the main event, well, Badly Drawn Boy always does exactly what he says on the tin. His image is as it always has been, the hair and beard still firm fixtures beneath the woolly hat, and he’s still writing and performing songs that can whip a crowd up into a toe-tapping frenzy. The show was a finely tuned mixture of older hits, instrumentals from About A Boy and a fair scattering of his newer releases, including his single, ‘Born in the UK’ from his latest album. The audience was quickly drawn into his catchy tunes, powerful instrumentals and the intimate atmosphere created by the theatrical venue.  Although I’m very positive about the City Varieties as a venue (a feeling that I do not, apparently, share with BDB; a point I shall return to in a moment) there is a part of me that would have wanted to see him play at one of the chip shop gigs he’d lined up for his tour. The choice of a chip shop as a gig venue just seems to reflect his apparent down-to earth nature that comes across in his shows.  So why does BDB not like the City Varieties? Unfortunately, the old theatre managed to deceive Mr. Gough from his vantage point on the stage, into thinking that the sound quality was less than desired, which led to several colourful outbursts and a flying guitar stand. It took a while for me to figure out what he was bitching about; from the audience’s perspective, we were just sitting back and enjoying the show. For the onlookers though, the misunderstanding with the acoustics led to a pleasing impromptu venture by BDB into the crowd. All I can say is that, if flying guitar stands are the norm for bad acoustics in a theatre, I’m sorry that I missed out on the potential food fight in the chip shop! 

There is no doubt that BDB puts on a very good show and, despite what he may have thought, the whole ‘sound problem’ episode just added to the gig’s enjoyment as we, the audience, were made to feel that we had been made a part of a performance that would stand apart from the rest. The man’s a great songwriter, and although some of his new songs may not be as catchy as his earlier work, his epic instrumentals have a vibrancy to them that resonates right to your very core, and for me, demonstrates where his true talent lies… All in all, a very enjoyable show.  

Belinda Troup

 
 

Malcolm Middleton
19.2.07 - City Varieties, Leeds

I really don't think I need to tell anyone reading this about Malcolm Middleton. It is likely that many amongst you will still be mourning the demise of Arab Strap. He has grudgingly described his music, especially that on his second album, as "a pop album for people who hate pop music’. Or maybe ‘love songs for depressed people who worry too much about dying and the consequences of their daily actions and thoughts to be able to enjoy life fully."

At the City Varieties, supporting Badly Drawn Boy, Malcolm Middleton was very very good. His songs, mostly taken from his new solo album A Brighter Beat are wonderful. All reflect Malcolm's awareness and experiences of the darker parts of human relationships. They address depression, pain and loneliness - especially well on most recent single A Brighter Beat. "It takes a lot of desperation to make a move...but I'd rather sit and stare". They still retain warmth and humour. They still suggest that whatever is happening, there'll be no giving up. The songs displayed an awareness of those topics that comes from experience and a will to carry on in spite of them.

It's nothing new to conceal these darker thoughts behind catchy pop music. It still works and especially well when done with the panache and honesty of Middleton. The songs are far from pish. They do suggest that he still has his own battle with light and dark. I can't comment on which side is winning, I don't think that's the point. The songs are very good. There's no need to try and use any other angle to make things more interesting."

Christoper Carney

 
 

Heads We Dance
12.3.2007 - The Cockpit, Leeds

There's a lot of surly young folk about these days aren't there? If they're not loitering inside parks behind their hoodies they're sneering from the other side of the speaker in some rap record or just plain sulking in their bedrooms. Not so tonight's protagonists Heads We Dance who are pretty much the happiest-looking band I've ever come across.

Having seen HWD sporting all their assembled finery on their Myspace page and giving a pretty good impression of a school staff room scene, minds were racing as to what tonight would have in store. But from the opening of 'So You Want To Stay at the Ritz' it was clear it was going to be Fun, with a capital F. HWD are unapologetic in their love of the kitsch 80's pop sounds of The Human League, Pet Shop Boys and Heaven 17 and it is this surety of what they want to do that sees them succeed so well. The band are a well drilled unit - the drums knock out unremitting patterns unerring in accuracy, the bass bounces along in a wonderfully fluid yet retro way and the only thing sharper than the starched creases on the front-man's shirt collar are the synthy stabs  coming from the keyboards.

This wonderfully flamboyant attitude spreads across the whole band who all seem to be enjoying things suspiciously too much, especially the bass player. There is the brief darker moment in the more jagged 'Let's Work It Out' which certainly tips a nod to Siouxie & the Banshees but al the while maintaining the indisputable glamorous qualities of the heads We Dance Style. This track certainly sees a large number of the crowd dancing like highly oiled robots - can there be any higher recommendation of the track? The parpy 'Love in a Digital Age' is also well received but set closer 'The Heads We Dance Theme' is a revelation - like a Rocky soundtrack or motivational music from a Green Goddess fitness video. There a few low points of the set which flies by (there was a short period where some of the vocal harmonies sounded more like wails of pain from the drummer but I'm pretty sure this lack of pitch was due to monitor problems, not a bad performance).

Heads We Dance have achieved a slightly cheesey yet unfathomably glamorous and energetic take on disco pop. They've blatantly stolen original synth sounds from the likes of Human League and parts of 'So You Want to Stay...' made me feel like I was watching a episode of The Tube from 1982, but damn, it's great to watch.
www.myspace.com/headswedance

SB

 
 

Ash
3.3.07 - Sheffield University

Well I have to admit I wasn't too sure what to expect from this, I mean I loved Ash "back in the day" (who didn't!) but I'd seen them live a couple of times before and never really taken to them. So we arrived at Sheffield with mild scepticism, and due to some horrendous traffic en route a little too tardy for the support band. Still we quickly grabbed a drink and weaved our way through the heaving mass of limbs as close to the front as we could manage. It's not too long before the lights go down and a wall of noise coalesces into the frantic opening of "Lose Control" as the crowd do precisely that, giving in to sheer joy that only increases with "Burn Baby Burn". At some point during this opening salvo I remember to check my scepticism only to find it jumping up and down and singing out loud alongside me.

There's a considerable back catalogue to run through so it's not a surprise that some old (“Angel Interceptor”) and not quite so old (“Shining Light”) favourites get left behind, but it's worth noting that the older stuff sounds as good as ever. During "Goldfinger" and "Oh Yeah" you can close your eyes and feel like it's the summer of 1996 again; playing footy in the park, eating ice cream and watching England stuff Holland, great days! By rights the later tracks should sound, well, a bit odd without Charlotte there but in truth they don’t, if anything the sound is more energetic, more streamlined, back to the basics that made 1977 such a classic album. "Orpheus" and "Walking Barefoot" have the same sing-along quality as "Girl From Mars". The most noticeable aspect of the sound tonight is Tim Wheeler's much-maligned voice. I've often heard people remark about what an average singer he is, but there's no evidence of that tonight, with some strong singing clear and loud in the mix. Of course having a few hundred people singing along word for word can only help! Without a doubt the highlight of the set is a belt-busting "Life Less Ordinary", it's a perfect rendition of a perfect song! Kudos as well to the skinny homeboy in the XXL baseball shirt doing gangsta rap hand gestures to “Girl From Mars”, you made me laugh!

It would be easy to get lost in the enthusiasm surrounding the return to the old line-up (indeed a quick glance at the merch stand indicates a statement of intent with the majority of t-shirts, etc carrying the 1977 label), but I'm here in another capacity and this gig is in essence part of a "hey, remember us" tour preceding a new album, of which there's a selection of tracks on show tonight. "You Can't Have It All" is to be the first single off the forthcoming long-player, which is somewhat of a surprise to me as it's easily the weakest of the new songs and probably the weakest in the whole set. With it's Police-esque guitar riff "Roulette" is catchy in all the right ways though and goes back to the big sing-along chorus formula that's served the boys so well thus far; give people a few more listens of this and I'm sure it'll be a crowd favourite. "Polaris" has a darker mood and a Jimmy Eat World air about it and demonstrates a song writing maturity that sits well alongside the more familiar poppy-rock songs and complements them nicely with a touch of variety. The set comes crashing to an end with the new album closer "In Hell" which is just fucking immense!

The now customary encore begins with a fantastic rendition of "Petrol", possibly the most fun song in the world, and finishes with an extended bout of "Kung Fu" action that ensures everyone leaves with that warm glowy feeling that you get when you made the mad dash to the ice cream van and got the last screwball ... oh wait, I’m back in 96 again.

Jam


SETLIST
---
Lose Control
Burn Baby Burn
Jesus Says
You Can’t Have It All
Orpheus
Goldfinger
Roulette
Renegade Cavalcade
Walking Barefoot
Polaris
A Life Less Ordinary
Oh Yeah
Girl From Mars
In Hell
---
Petrol
I Started A Fire
Vampire Love
Kung Fu

 
 

Tarka Groove Experiment
9.3.2007 - Winchester Railway Inn 

First impressive feat of the night is all six band members managing to squeeze themselves onto the modest sized stage, and still having room for their beanie clad lead singer to throw a few shapes. Second impressive feat is a violin on stage. Not often you see that nowadays, and it’s definitely not often that it’s used as the main instrument in several songs. Hats off indeed. 

At first glance, Tarka Groove Experiment are the kind of people you see sitting around at festivals playing bongos and getting deep and meaningful. Give them some proper instruments and put them on stage though, and a beautiful thing unfolds. They’re actually rather talented, and produce some glorious jazz/funk/pop songs. Musically, the band are faultless and their multi-layered harmonies would be far better suited to an open space than this tiny music room. They even manage to loosen up the so tight it hurts indie audience with a cheeky sing a long. Subtly complex, this band definitely requires a second glance.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Air Traffic + Snowfight At The City Centre
27.02.07 – Nottingham Social

Snowfight At The City Centre take the stage with a somewhat restrained air about them, but their opening track immediately grabs my attention with its pounding drums and soaring vocals and it is genuine disappointment I feel when a generator failure takes out the PA halfway through the first song. There's a few minutes of awkwardness as the sound engineers try to fix the generator and the band appear rather embarrassed by the whole affair. Thankfully, we're back underway a few minutes later and its easy to forget myself in the music once more. The guitar and keyboard lines mingle with a number of vocal harmonies in a wonderfully orchestrated manner somewhat reminiscent of Doves, and yet there's a hint of something more poppy in there too, one name that springs to mind is Rock Kills Kid. To me this band's set falls somewhere between the two and it's wonderful stuff, almost post-rock pop, definitely ones to keep an eye on!

To tell the truth this is the busiest I've seen The Social for some time now and most people are here to see these up and coming kids from Bournemouth known as Air Traffic. Confident starter "I Like That" has an enthusiastic air about it that you can't help but open yourself up to, and previous single "Never Even Told Me Her Name" grabs you by the ears with a catchy (albeit quo-esque) guitar riff. Any fears that this band are just another bunch of <insert piano-led indie band here>-wannabes are allayed by "This Old Town", with its tribal drums and spectacular outro, and an almost grungy "Get In Line". There's more to keep you entertained, each song is catchy in its own right ("New Guitar" being a particular favourite of mine). Yes, this is a young band who seem to have the knack of writing catchy hooks and singalong choruses.

Despite having really strong vocals, between songs singer Chris Wall comes across as humble and genuinely pleased/surprised that people are interested! Its an endearing trait that I for one hope stays with the band during the success they will undoubtedly experience over the coming months.

Current single "Charlotte" is a classic pop song in every sense of the word, its beauty lies in its simplicity and it makes you want to singalong and dance. It's a good time in musical form! Closing with the frantic (and possibly Jools Holland-inspired) piano solo of "Just Abuse Me" leaves everyone wanting more, but that’s all for now and I can't help but feel that the next time these guys tour they'll be playing bigger venues than this!

Forget about whether it's treading new ground or not, and forget the Keane-related lazy comparisons, this is a band enjoying themselves, playing to a crowd enjoying themselves. Isn't that what music should be about? Shouldn't music just be allowed to make us smile sometimes? Air Traffic certainly seem to think so, and on this performance I can't argue with them, I’m too busy having fun!

Jam


Air Traffic Setlist
---
I Like That
Never Even Told Me Her Name
This Old Town
Last Chance
Get In Line
Time Goes By
New Guitar
Shooting Star
Charlotte
Just Abuse Me
---

 
 

Brakes
4.3.07 -Norwich Arts Centre

Generally I ignore the support bands in a gig review unless they really are worth of note. And this time both really were worth a few words. First up was Bobby Cook. He and his band delivered songs full of warm summer melodies and smooth grooves, each song was bouncy and enjoyable, harking back to all that is great about British indie guitar music, Bobby Cook is well worth checking out. Next up were Absentee, whose lead singer sounded as I would imagine a wise old grisly bear would. His luxurious deep rough tones accompanied country tinged tunes each with the charming character to boot.

Now then…Brakes, the true meaning of a super group! Each member of the band brings their own style and attitude from their original bands to the Brakes, making for a refreshing blast of brilliant music, a genre in its own right. The set comprised of the majority of their debut album Give Blood, interspersed with their new album The Beatific Visions. Their songs are as long as they need to be; long enough to pick the audience up shake them up a bit and put them back down. Packed full with Eamon’s aggressive; grab you by the balls lyrics set comfortably around the bands brilliant riffs, led by Tom White on guitar, who managed to get through a total of four guitars. The Brakes really get in the blood, their lyrics are easy to pick up, bounce and sing along to, each song delivers a message, plain, simple and raw. Their music is certainly experienced best live. Eamon, smaller in stature than I imagined but hardly short of heart, has a frank stage presence, identifying and engaging with the audience, he was dripping by the end of the set leaving a satisfying puddle of sweat on stage and still after a good 20 plus songs I couldn’t get enough of their short, sharp rasps of anger ‘All Night Disco Party’ and ‘Comma Comma Full Stop’ are delivered in a way so totally brilliant it physically makes my shake thinking about them as I write this review listening to their music, each song gets under the skin, engrained in the brain. I urge you to lock yourself in a small room, crank up the volume and go nuts to their original sound. It was certainly the best gig of 2007 and standing right at the front of the stage still wasn’t quite close enough. The Arts Centre proved the perfect venue for this brilliant gig. It’s going to take something special to beat it! Fan-bloody-tastic!

Gareth Ludkin
www.myspace.com/funkyasfudgefanzine
(read my fanzine FUNKY AS FUDGE!)

 
 

The Argonauts + Jim’ll
28.2.07 - The Pleasure Unit Bar

There are some shows that you just can’t pass up the opportunity to write about and this is one of them. Eccentric balladeer Jim’ll has decided to go to the effort of dressing up like a giant Smurf this evening, blue body paint and everything. It is, he informs us, still wet. The second most memorable thing about Jim’ll is the subject matter of his songs rather than the songs themselves - one of them is about sharing photo-space with Damon Albarn in the NME, for instance, although “Take Some Drugs”, with its kiss-off line “…and don’t drink”, still lingers. 

The Argonauts not only have as many songwriters as they do members (3) but also their very own Bez in the shape of Mick Badger, Jagger impersonator extraordinaire (well, how else do you top a Smurf?), who comes on to strut his not entirely sober stuff for one number. Curious parties would do well to check out You Tube, but let’s not allow the music to be sidelined.  

Having recently lost a keyboard player, The Argonauts sound doesn’t seem to have suffered much because of it. It’s still summery pop all the way, be it in the form of the amiable “We’ve Got a Fire” or the more swinging “What Happened To You?” Drummer Terry’s contributions, whilst favouring drive over melody, give the set yet more range…I get the impression he’d like to rock out a bit more often. Perhaps if The Argonauts can combine all these elements, they might turn even more heads.
www.myspace.com/theargonautsmusic

Will Columbine

 
 

Enter Shikari + Yourcodenameis:Milo
4.3.07 - Southampton University 

The Enter Shikari experience is a cross between a day in playschool, (albeit a slightly twisted playschool that would probably get shut down), and Braveheart. 

Yourcodenameis: Milo, apart from plugging their upcoming headline show to death, deliver an energised set. They showcase a rather impressive trick whereby instead of the tempo being controlled by their drummer, the band speed up and slow down according to the speed of their upward body movement. They also must have telepathic communication down pat, as they do it without even looking at each other. It’s the first of many entertaining dance moves. 

 After struggling for few years, YCNI:M finally seem to have found their niche, and new songs suggest the band are heading for a more melodic feel, but their heavier material is also out in force. 

New-rave seems to have found Enter Shikari, grabbed them by the neck, and is refusing to let go. As the lights go down the flashing lights and glowsticks are on, with the place looking more like a rave than a gig. After an intro of a club classic that is probably lost on most of the audience, the band take to the stage, with flashing glasses and a master class in throwing shapes. 

Lead singer Rou seems physically incapable of keeping still, and stands in one place for approximately three seconds at a time, before leaping about the stage again. Clearly he’s had his hands in the sweet jar when mum wasn’t looking.  

Enter Shikari are certainly a good influence on their young impressionable audience, telling us that they’re “off their tits on life” and that “it’s all about respect”. They even perform a public service duty by chucking condoms into the crowd, while explaining “Johnny Sniper”.  

As the show progresses in the ridiculously hot venue, only the fittest survive. “Endurance” was the message from the band, but little guys everywhere were getting tuckered out and dropping to the floor at the back for a nap. I also suspect there were more than a few trips to A and E the next day. 

 Enter Shikari have a basic blueprint for their songs- a minute or so of trance or dance, and then into a rip roaring screamer of a song with sludgy bass lines and a large dollop of vocal chord tearing screaming. Their one acoustic number sees some complex vocal harmonies that work well, but it’s clear it’s a novelty, with the guitarist claiming he’d never played an acoustic before. 

As far as entertainment goes, the band ticks all the boxes for putting on a successful show. Although their fusion of dance and hardcore is interesting, there is often an obvious segue between the two in their songs, and they rarely blend them together successfully. There are brief displays of quirky brilliance in some of their songs, such as a handclap or a tempo change. More often than not though these are lost in the general noise the band generate. 

Whether or not they have the potential to do more is debatable, but for now there is many a satisfied face emerging from the pit. And mum’s outside waiting to pick them up. 

Catriona Boyle

 
 

I Was a Cub Scout + Linda’s Nephew
3.3.07 - The Zodiac, Oxford

It turns a bit wet and wild during the Linda’s Nephew set as the lead singer strips shirtless to reveal his willowy youngster frame, making everyone in the room over eighteen years of age sweat to the thought of arrest for attending a public viewing of some swanky brand of musical kiddy-porn. We remain in a dim corner of the room to save our eyesight from the blinding display. The common teenage angst is conquered by computer game-esque keyboards and every song sounds like the last one; maybe it’s because Linda’s Nephew work hard at looking like they work hard or they’re only working hard with one type of song. Personally, I cannot tell. I’m sightless due to the surprise teenage nudity. Rest assured, there are no surprises, and it sounds exactly like what you might think today’s youngsters might sound like, if that means pop punk mixed with keyboard infused space-age landings and futuristic folk rain dances in the land of Zelda. The sonic meltdown of crashing instruments and wiggling bodies spread about the stage signal their close, which was clearly the most satisfying musical aspect of their set, poor little ones.  

I should have done my homework. As soon as I Was a Cub Scout begin to assemble on stage I realize that I have no idea what I Was a Cub Scout sounds like and neither does anyone around me. So we’re all a bunch of lazy bastards. I’m a bit taken away by the contour of Toddy’s picka-boo curls that ever so slightly form that archetypal Appalachian mullet; his patterned shirt costume him charmingly comedic, and he looks like he has just bounced out of an American Midwestern barn house bust with a minor case of cabin fever; but it’s not that distracting. He tampers a bit with some keyboards and fades in and out with the microphone to squeak in some heartache here and there. I search about the stage for a third member, who must be in charge of the keyboards, but no, it’s just the two. The magnificent musical jubilation that erupts from these two is nothing less than marvelous. The accessible thumping of William at the drums keeps the wandering, explosive keyboard outbursts grounded without taking any of the magic away. It remains dance-friendly without the aggressive amount of insubstantial repetition; it twinkles with subtle changes but occasionally exposes sudden, climactic cloudbursts. Highlights include “Pink Squares” and soon to be released, “I Hate Nightclubs.” It’s modest without sounding weak, and it’s whimsical without sounding out of step, and it’s simply fondly redeeming.

Rhyannon Rodriguez

 

 

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Tullycraft + The Apples in Stereo
23.2.07 – Subterranean, Chicago 

As an avowed British pop fanatic, I feel as if I haven’t given Tullycraft the proper attention over the years that they deserve.  When a Tullycraft fanatic friend snarkily replied, “I don’t expect you to!” to me when I said I didn’t listen to them much, I wanted to thwack him, but really, I should have thought why haven’t I properly fallen for this group from my own country. It’s probably because my eye is always on the great UK that I don’t appreciate as much American indie pop.

I still felt a great sense of excitement at seeing Tullycraft this Friday night.  After all, it was only one of two shows they were playing this weekend in the Midwest after getting an offer to play a music festival at Beloit College in Wisconsin.  The show I attended saw them tacked on to the bill of the Apples in Stereo and Casper and the Cookies at the last minute, and they proved to be the stars of the show. 

The band were charming, vivacious, fun as hell, and embodied the DIY indie pop spirit in spades.  It was all hyper jangle guitar and girl-boy vocals and melodica and tambourine.  The singer, Sean, was on stage just how he sounds on record - kind of bashful, cute, witty, and with loads of stories and records up his sleeve. 

It was ace to see a bunch of people dancing – how could you not dance to all this rambunctious fun?  The kids went nuts to “Twee,” of course, and “Wild Bikini” as well.  And ever since the show, I’ve had “Miss Douglas County” in my head. 

And what fabulous news!  They’ve nearly finished recording a new album, from which they played a few new songs.  One had audience participation requested, in which much of the audience sang, “and if you take away their makeup, then the vampires, they will die.”  And damn if the new songs don’t all sound like totally classic Tullycraft.  They’re not sitting down with an acoustic guitar and singing about the settled life.   

Amazingly, they were the first band on the bill.  They were followed by the atrocious Casper and the Cookies, who desperately want to be a psych-pop E6 band, but come off as embarrassing posers. 

Then Apples in Stereo came on.  Well, when I say “came on” I mean well after Robert futzed around with setting up guitar pedals for about 15 minutes after the band had finished setting up.  This was followed by an extended wait period in which he and the band went upstairs.  Their return couldn’t have been more anticlimactic.  When they finally got playing, Robert kept whinging to the soundwoman that his vocals weren’t as audible as the other band members, could she fix it, could he switch microphones with this bandmate or the other, etc.  After the plug ‘n’ play super fabulous energy of Tullycraft, the Apples in Stereo were just coming off as sad old plods. 

But it was ace to see Dressy Bessy John on guitar, who never fails to put a smile on my face with his snappy dress sense.  Plus, Bill of Olivia Tremor Control graced us with his sweet vocals on keyboards and tambourine.  I didn’t need to see the end of their set to have had my night made by the pop goodness of Tullycraft.

Jennifer Reiter

 

 

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Saturday Looks Good to Me
24.2.07 – The Hideout, Chicago 

When I say that Chicago is a bit butch and in love with all that is abstract, difficult, and rock, and thus not a haven for indie pop, please believe me when I try to express my utter thrill after learning that Saturday Looks Good to Me were playing a show the night after Tullycraft.  Not even a winter storm could keep me away from the hidden, difficult-to-get-to Hideout. 

The Hideout has a wonderfully intimate atmosphere that reminds me a lot of a British pub’s back room – the scene of many of the best gigs and clubs I’ve been to and read about in the UK. 

When SLGTM came onstage around 11pm, clad all in white, the room was full of people ready to clap their hands.  I was also glad to see SLGTM’s best female singer, Betty Marie Barnes, with them.  A beautiful girl with a soulful voice, she’s a total diva who worked the stage in a vintage mod dress, pulling some sharp 60s moves.  Surprisingly, she didn’t sing “Meet Me By the Water” – Fred did!   

I really enjoy SLGTM live much more than I do on record.  Fred’s voice just sounds stronger, and they are much fuller sounding, achieving that soulful wall of sound that doesn’t quite make it for me on record.  There’s not so much tinkling around with different effects and almost getting there.  Live, they just do. 

They played a few new songs as the new record is finished and will be coming out on K records later this year!  They also did a cover of Belle & Sebastian’s “Dylan in the Movies” which was unexpected, but really quite ace.  My highlight was “Edison Girls,” a standout on the How Does it Feel to be Loved compilation from last year; a song which sent me into whirls around the room.   

Jennifer Reiter