Live at The Library on Friday, 19th August 2011
So here I am, it's Friday night and I'm upstairs at The Library for a 360 Club night eagerly anticipating what is renowned as a brilliant sample of Leeds bustling unsigned music scene. The room was uncharacteristically empty compared to 360's usual standards, but considering it is the height of 'Summer' and everyone has upped sticks and left in search of some sunshine, you could excuse the bands for leaving a few corners of the room unoccupied.
First on stage tonight is comedy singer/songwriter Oliver Manning. His style is interesting to say the least, a puzzling combination of comedic lyrics with Emo/Rock guitar parts; the sort of snails and ice cream concoction you can imagine Heston Blumenthal enjoying if he ever decided to pack in his day job and pick up a guitar. His sound resonated well with certain pockets of the audience, but the majority were left feeling a little dazed and confused as they laugh politely during the occasional dubious punch line. Tonight you felt Manning's performance would have perhaps been more suited to an open mic night or a sing-along pub gig - his songs often felt forced and there was not enough range or care taken in his guitar playing to really captivate the audience.
As his set came to a close I was left with the impression that if Manning focused slightly more on his writing style and if he took a more decisive stance on whether he wanted to be either a comedy act or a singer/songwriter, then the audience would have had a less blurred understanding of his act and it perhaps would have been received more strongly - this said there is certainly potential for him to develop into an impressive artist.
Next up were trio Rupert Stroud. They opened with a conservative but powerful version of Adele's 'Rolling In The Deep' and although the cover occasionally lacked presence in terms of the fullness of sound, the rendition was well mimicked. Nevertheless I couldn't help but feel that as a band they were better than this, other songs in their repertoire such as 'Hangover' and '40 Days And 40 Nights' had much more going for them in terms of style, structure and general interest. It was during these songs that we got a real glimpse of what Rupert Stroud could do, his menacing vocals paired with intricate guitar lines and minimal yet powerful drumming came together to create a mesmerizing style of acoustic rock. Rupert's voice stood out well in the mix, and the lyrics were generally well thought out, but they were not immune to the occasional wincing moment that you felt he could have avoided.
The gig was a tale of two Strouds, when they played their more developed music you felt captivated and were fully engaged by the band and it was unfortunate to be occasionally left feeling underwhelmed when they played their more pop-y tracks. The atmosphere was also marginally spoilt by the replacement of a live bassist with a backing track - the click track gave the band, especially the drummer, a feeling of engineered rigidity, which stood out and made the music feel unnatural at times. Overall it was generally impressive, but I'd like to see them explore certain elements of their music more fully.
The highlight of the evening came in the shape of Catscans - a new band formed recently off the back of We Sell Seashells. I knew little of Catscans before the gig and as they began to play I found myself becoming quickly immersed in their world of jagged guitars and soaring violins. Their sound was predominantly Math Rock, echoing bands such as Redneck Manifesto and Lite; you could also trace elements of their self-proclaimed influence Vessels. The opening song was cut short by a small technical glitch from the bassist (which like the previous band was disappointingly played by a laptop) when it decided to cut out. The band were hardly phased as Johnny jokingly cried 'I think we lost power.'
The backing track was soon restored and so were Catscans as they launched immediately into their second number. The lack of spoken vocals was very effective; instead Catscans preferred to replace words with a style of ritualistic chanting, or perhaps Yodeling (I'm not sure which), only offering lyrics during their newest track 'Catheline' - a beautifully delicate song that stunned the audience to the point where you could almost hear a pin drop.
The majority of their songs clocked in well over the 5 minute mark, which can often send alarm bells ringing for those that care little for prog over indulgence. Catscans however avoided this pretention with ease, crafting their songs in a way that allows them to get the ultimate mileage out of each riff, whilst having enough variation in the background to allow decades to pass with out you even noticing. As Catscans set finished they wandered humbly off stage and you could feel a hunger from within the audience for more, and judging on tonight's performance the fans will not be disappointed when the band release their debut EP this month.
The crowd was now built up for a crescendo to the evening but it was sadly not to be. Aim For The Eyes took to the stage and bombarded the audience with their take on Emo Punk/Rock, a sound that could be described as a drastic collision of Panic At The Disco and Blink-182. This could have been excused had the band been comprised of angsty teenagers who believe parents and school are 'stoopid', but the reality couldn't have been further from it.
The band's performance certainly did not lack energy, but it came across more as headless exuberance instead of actual engagement in their music: It was verging on becoming comical as I watched front man Richard Watkin bound around on stage, deploying almost every clich?mic pose from under the sun. Then comes the issue of the drum-backing track, which was so appallingly produced it sounded as if it had been played by an old mono keyboard, which if you rev up through the Library's impressive P.A ends up something similar to what I imagine being repeatedly hit over the head with a rusty pan would sound like - it hurt your head similarly too.
There was however a little respite that could be found in the form of their lead guitarist, who could clearly play. He frantically careered around the stage with an energy and skill that had to be admired - very rarely do you find someone who makes such a consistent sound whilst absolutely thrashing his guitar and at the same time making it appear easy. Sadly however, given tonight's performance, his efforts were in vain as Aim For The Eyes offered little more than a nostalgic glimpse into an era of bands that have long gone, and for good reason.
Progressive/Post Rock band from Leeds
Rupert Stroud is an Acoustic/pop/rock singer/songwriter