Archive | July, 2012

Inspiral Carpets – Live

31 Jul

Concorde 2, Brighton: Friday, July 27

Singer Stephen Holt rejoined the Inspiral Carpets last year after two decades with Tom Hingley at helm. Holt missed their peak period, bowl-cut barnets, paydays and Top 40 successes, but at Concorde 2, as he stood on the monitors and orchestrated the crowd, it was like he was back where he belonged.

Switching frontmen is rarely successful, but Holt’s return was no doubt helped by the fact that the Inspirals have always been seen as organ maestro Clint Boon’s band, a status signified by the shouts of ‘Boon Army’ that rang out in between every song.

The terrace-style chanting made it clear the crowd was up for it and, despite the stifling heart, so were Boon and co.

From the shout-along Joe and the stop-start swagger of She Comes In The Fall to the indie disco classic This Is How It Feels, this didn’t sound like a band going through the motions to top-up their pensions.

There was a palpable sense of urgency and commitment that, to be frank, was totally unexpected; the drumming was brash and blistering, the low-slung bass was so deep it sounded like it was being played under the floor, while Boon’s jabbing organ lines skimmed along like perfectly-aimed pot shots at the tight rhythm section below.

The doubling-up of Holt’s and Boon’s vocals also added an extra shot of vim, helping to produce a sound more akin to their original garage-band roots than the indie makeweights and Madchester halfwits they are so frequently filed alongside.

“Half the world is watching the Olympic opening ceremony and you’ve been watching the Inspiral Carpets,” said Boon at one point. 

As the majestic Saturn 5, with the chorus line “You really were the greatest sight” was shouted back by 300 sweat-drenched souls, those glued to their goggleboxes didn’t know what they were missing. The Inspirals aren’t past-it also rans. On this form, they should still be contenders.

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Post War Years – Live

24 Jul

The Hope: Thursday, July 19

It must be difficult headlining when half the crowd scarpered after the local support act, but if genre-hopping four-piece Post War Years were a tad miffed, they didn’t show it.

They said, without bitterness, that they were looking forward to supporting Brighton’s Kins in future. So far, so endearing, but they could do with a bit of swagger to go alongside their sincerity, because their output certainly deserved it.

After starting with a couple of jabbing, 80s-infused tracks which favoured repetitive rhythms over killer hooks, ‘Growl’ provided a more substantial statement of intent with its layers of stuttering keys and whooping backing harmonies cooly kept in check by some impressive, regimental drums.

Next they deployed a three-pronged attack of synths and keys to stack up a meaty sound not dissimilar to the trippy, beat-laden efforts of Delphic, before veering off into some stop-start, euphoric  indie, and a bit of Metronomy-lite bass-driven pop.

Don’t expect to immediately be bowled over by catchy choruses, though. These smart songs don’t as much smack you around the chops on first listen, as prick your interest to listen to them again.

Which isn’t a bad marketing tactic at all, is it?

Kimya Dawson – Live

12 Jul

The Haunt, Brighton: Tuesday, July10 2012.

Kimya Dawson was missing her kid and battling the frog in her throat caused by a cyst on a vocal cord. But she still loved everyone.

Seriously, nobody could perform as many cloying songs about how we should celebrate our differences, share and share alike and treat everyone as equals if she didn’t have a heart has big as her impressive afro.

It’s impossible to argue with the sentiment, but it was soul-destroying nonetheless. In fact, as she perched centre stage with her acoustic guitar and preached to the largely converted, there were times when it felt like you were swimming against a tide of hippy drivel.

It was bloody infuriating, because, away from the happy-clappy sermons, she was frequently spectacular.

When she was singing about her child, a two-timing ex, or comical ways of overcoming a fear of flying, it was easy to enjoy the songs for what they were; a collection of clever, tender and occasionally brilliantly skewif numbers that married simple, yet adorable, tunes with smart and at times deeply heartfelt lyrics.

Nowhere was this more evident than towards the end of the set when she revealed a friend had died earlier that day. Understandably moved, she went on to perform a couple of songs about people she’d lost in the past that were simply stunning. One, about a friend who died of cancer, somehow managed to convey the myriad of emotions caused by grief in a perfect five-minute pop song.

As a spectacle, it was intense, as a feat of songwriting, it was pure class.

However much it grated, tolerating the abundance of sickly nonsense was just about worthwhile after all.

Rhod Gilbert – The Man With The Flaming Battenberg Tattoo – Live

12 Jul

The Dome, Brighton: Monday, July 9 2012.

For one horrible moment at the start of The Man With The Flaming
Battenberg Tattoo, it appeared that Rhod Gilbert was playing with fire
with his career.

Apparently he is a lot more relaxed these days and no longer lets
life’s mundane, yet exceedingly irritating banalities whip him into a
state of blind fury.

Good for him, but it is these outbursts of rasping rage that have made
him a favourite of the Live At The Apollo era and helped him pack out
venues as big as the Dome.

Luckily for us, though, his two-hour set didn’t focus on how he
presumably now meditates in an incense-filled teepee, but charts how
he came to realise he was ‘in a bad place’ by recounting some of the
‘petty’ issues that really got his goat in the past.

Cleverly dipping in and out of his anger management diary, he
breathlessly let rip at electric toothbrushes, the outlandish claims
made on bottles of shower gel, supermarket packaging and the food
available on trains.

On paper, it doesn’t sound especially impressive, but Gilbert’s talent
lies in the way he forensically dissects his subjects, picking them
apart at the seams with indignant contempt.

Amid the tirades, there were actually very few punchlines, but his delivery, sarcasm and clever-dick language ensured the laughs rarely stopped.

He also made sure the set was more than a riotous rant, skilfully
weaving in how his contrary nature impacted on his relationship with
his girlfriend. Not only did this provide a contrasting personal
touch, but it also teed up a cracking pay-off at the end.

Gilbert is a comedian at the peak of his powers, but it will be
interesting to see how he develops his act next. Is it wrong to hope
for an anger management relapse?

Vic Godard & Subway Sect – Live

4 Jul

Green Door Store, Brighton: Saturday, June 30 2012

So who has more embodied the spirit of punk? Is it the limelight-hogging John Lydon who greased his palms with Country Life cash and cosied up to Z-list ‘celebrities’ in a jungle, or Vic Godard, a DIY purist, largely unsung hero and postman who, to be frank, can’t fill the tiny Green Door Store on a Saturday night.

Punk might mean many things to many people, but tonight reinforced which side my bread is buttered on, and it ain’t yours Johnny.

Part of Godard’s charm is that there is nothing to distinguish him – with his receding hair, ill-fitting t-shirt and comfy trainers – from any of the other middle-aged men in the venue. And in fitting with his style, or lack of, there was no fanfare, showboating or fuss as he hunched over the mic for more than an hour, dispatching his words of wisdom in his typically understated manner.

What’s more, this wasn’t a nostalgia-fest, nor was it an obligatory tour to flog a new record, because there isn’t one. Instead we got a professional, tight and polished set that spanned the last 35 years and fizzed along with a steady supply of gnarly passion and outsider confidence.

While the years have passed, the quality hasn’t diminished. The bouncing chorus of Rhododendron Town and the taut, almost Specials-esque Back In The Community, from 2010’s We Come As Alien’s album, were more than worthy of sharing the same set as songs from what most here would say was their heyday.

Bearing in mind they were playing on a night when the Stone Roses were lining their pockets in front of 70,000 people in Manchester, it’s hard not to think that Vic should be showered with more attention. Deep down, however, you suspect he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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