EEEEEEEEEE – Live Review – The Twilight Sad, ICA, London


The Twilight Sad are LOUD. About 25 years ago, Swans played the ICA in London, a gig which has gone down in London gig folkore as the loudest ever. Apparently, people were being sick and in all sorts of trouble. Having seen Swans the following year, when apparently they’d calmed down, and not being able to hear at all after, I know what loud is. And Twilight Sad are loud.

Not quite that loud though. But loud enough to make my ears go EEEEEEEEEEEE. They’re doing it now. Getting to sleep tonight’s going to be fun.

This being a showcase of a couple of record labels – One Little Indian and Fat Cat – we were meant to be treated to three bands tonight. Sadly, Kill It Kid were unable to play thanks to “a case of th’ no’wells”. Shame, as Martyn has been singing their praises and since he’s a man who knows his stuff, I was rather looking forward to seeing them. Ah well, next time. EEEEEEEE.

So it was up to We Were Promised Jetpacks to be the only support act. And they did what every good support act should do – be good, but not so good as to upstage the main act. Noisy and bouncy, like a really good C86 band. Christ, first Swans, now C86, I’m really showing my age here.

I don’t know much about The Twilight Sad. I know they are from the edge of Glasgow, that singer James Graham obviously hasn’t got over his teenage years, and that they have a great line in song titles, but I’d no idea what they look like. What do they look like? A bunch of Glaswegian lads, pretty much. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to meet James in a dark alley, with his shaven head and air of coiled intensity. EEEEEEEEE.

Mine's A Guinness

Mine's A Guinness

Saying that, a few songs in, he looked at the crowd and said “We’re amazed you’re all here. We thought no-one cared about us”. We do, of course, because you’re a damned fine band.

What a noise they make. It’s glorious. A wall of sheer fury comes from Andy McFarlane’s guitar (a white Fender Jaguar with a Tortoiseshell pickguard, I’ll have you know – the guitar of all the best alt-rockers). Much of the time you can’t hear the lyrics, especially on the tracks from the new album, but when they fall back to stuff from “Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters”, James’s voice shines through. EEEEEEEEE.

“That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy” was absolutely fantastic, with just enough noise to make it special without drowning out the shining glory of the song. Or rather, it’s called “Hit Single”. Ah, irony. In fact, I’m not even going to bother listing the new songs. Just look at the set list:

Set List.  These Aren't The Proper Names.

Set List. These Aren't The Proper Names.

See? “Mooth”?

The new tracks, as ever when you hear new songs live for the first time, weren’t quite as convincing as the older ones, but they’re definitely expanding their repertoire, rather than making “Fifteen Autumns and Sixteen Winters”. Looking forward to hearing what it sounds like on record rather than through a big bunch of speakers. EEEEEEEEE.

Early in the first song, “Doonstairs”, in the middle of a frenzy of feedback, Andy kneeled down and changed a setting on one of his many guitar pedals. Just a little bit, you know, to get the wall of sound just so. Attention to detail is where it’s at, you know. Not just any noise for these boys.

Pride of place, of course, went to “Cold Days From The Birdhouse”, first half sung pretty much unaccompanied, second halves’ “Where Are Your Manners?” drowned beneath that squall of sound. The night ended with a wall of feedback, detuned guitars and basses, with James standing in the centre of it all, eyes squeezed shut. He seemed happy. We certainly were.

You have to admire their ability to create a definitive sound – part Mogwai, part Arab Strap, part Proclaimers-after-doing-acid-and-primal-scream-therapy-and-no-sleep-for-9-days. There’s more than a bit of Mew and Joy Division in there too. But it sounds all them. I love bands that just seem to fall together, and sound like they couldn’t do anything else even if they tried. EEEEEEEE.

And one last point – I love it when a band makes an effort with their record covers. Just check out the cover of “Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards, It Did”:

The Importance Of Having An Image In The MP3 World

The Importance Of Having An Image In The MP3 World

Brilliant, isn’t it? The whole website follows the same design. See, you don’t get that with an MP3 download.

Anyway, it’s late, my ears are ringing, and I need sleep. Enjoy these tracks from The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks from the Fat Cat sampler. I suggest you go and see both bands when you get a chance. Take earplugs. EEEEEEEEEE.

MP3: That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy by The Twilight Sad

MP3: Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards, It Did (Live) by The Twilight Sad

MP3: Tiny Little Voices by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Buy “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters” (CD/MP3)

Buy We Were Promised Jetpacks “These Four Walls” (CD/MP3)

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Live Review – Stereophonics At The Royal Albert Hall

I don’t get out to see many bands at the moment. Partly it’s due to sheer incompetence in getting tickets – especially because, in London, up-and-coming acts have a tendency to sell out before you’ve bought tickets unless you’re really on the ball. Partly it’s that there aren’t many bands I’d like to see that I haven’t already seen yet. And partly there’s the financials. When you’re unemployed, you think , “Right, it’s £30-40 for two tickets, plus some food, and the babysitter, which in total ends up near £100 to watch a band surrounded by people who don’t seem to understand the concept that being out in public, watching a band, is very different to listening to the band at home. In that you CAN’T TALK LOUDLY ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE SET LIKE YOU DO AT HOME.” I once shouted at some people at a Mogwai show to “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”, to cheers from the people around me. And some baffled looks from the band. Sorry, rant over.

Anyway, when a friend told us she’d got tickets to see Stereophonics doing the Teenage Cancer Trust show at the Royal Albert Hall, it would be rude to decline. Whilst I can’t say they are my favourite band ever, I was sure it’d be a good night out. And so, here are some things I learnt tonight.

First of all, aren’t some of the songs off “Word Gets Around” just fantastic? They started off with “More Life In A Tramps Vest” and “A Thousand Trees”, which along with kicking the show off in top style, and confusing the people who were only there for “Handbags and Gladrags”, also reminded me what a great songwriter ‘lil Kelly Jones is when he puts his mind to it. “More Life In A Tramps Vest” in particular is one of the best songs about life in a small town I think I’ve ever heard. The line “Lose my rag and tell them take your bag and shop down there” is just beautiful, the way he fits it into the rhythm of the guitar, before having a quick rant about the one-way system. The sadness of some of the songs, such as “Local Boy In The Photograph” (touchingly introduced as “The song that started it all”), and “Billy Davies’ Daughter”, bring home the desperate lives of some of the inhabitants of Aberdare. Two songs about suicide on your debut album – what are you, the Tindersticks?

The second thing I learnt is that “Dakota” is extraordinary. If one is being honest, Stereophonics at their best have made some great tunes about small-town life, and to me at least, have never quite followed them up. *Cough* Mr Writer *cough*. But I still remember hearing “Dakota” come on the radio and saying to myself “What the fuck?”. It’s like Bob Dylan teaming up with Girls Aloud. It’s so different from the norm that you wonder what on earth was going on in Kelly’s head when he wrote it. All I can say is, please, please make some more songs like this. You’re a talented guy, with a great voice. You’ve done it once, now do it again. Go on, go on, go on, go on. Oh, and playing it as the last song was a nice touch. Starting with my favourite song of yours, and ending it with my second favourite is a good way of getting in my good books, you know.

And thirdly, the Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic building, which I love going to, but it’s just not right for rock music. Once you turn the gain up above, oooh, 2, the sound just gets all mushy. “The Bartender And The Thief” just disappeared into a morass of noise, and not in a good way. Thankfully, most of their best songs don’t rely too much on volume. “Have A Nice Day” worked pretty well, as did “Last Of The Big Time Drinkers”; even if it’s quite raucous, it doesn’t have that Les Paul/SG guitar assault thang going on. Muse suffered the same thing last year at the TCT. Richard Hawley, the man whose guitar amp blew up there, plays with a pretty clean sound, so it worked quite well. Joanna Newsom? Well, she’s got a harp, so she was golden. But if you like a nice dirty sound, then if you ever get to play there, tone it down a bit, eh? It just sounds rubbish.

And lastly. What a voice. It’s like Rod Stewart, at his finest, but better. On the way out you could hear people talking about it. He really does have a cracking set of gravelly tonsils on him. What is it with the Welsh and belting it out? From Tom Jones to James Dean Bradfield, top belters. Must be something in the water in the Valleys.

So, a good night out was had by all. In response to our friends generosity, we’re taking them to see TV On The Radio. I don’t think they are going to know what hit them.

Oh, and just to point out – it was a charity show, so please visit the Teenage Cancer Trust website and make a donation. As the excellent films before the show demonstrate, teenagers often get the rough end of the stick in cancer care, and this charity have done an amazing job in easing suffering of thousands of cancer victims.

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