Live at Brudenell Social Club on Saturday, 22nd March 2008
"Shall we get started, then?" comes the casual enquiry from Two Minute Noodles, after a playful soundcheck from the duo. The ethic comes across fairly rapidly - throw two painfully able musicians together and get playing with as little procrastination as possible. It is surprisingly cohesive; the heady timbre mix of synth, electronic organ and drums is used to great effect on certain tracks, and the musical rapport between the duo is impressive. Even more astounding is the extent to which they avoid being a mindless jam-band - rarely are there moments when they seem to need reigning in, and the slight unpredictable element adds a nice frisson to the end product.
Napoleon IIIrd's set seems to bring a lot of hardcore fans out of the woodwork, excitedly lapping up his distinctive hooks and appealing melodies. The inevitable rigidity of playing to a tape deck occasionally sends the tempo and rhythm a little off-kilter but this doesn't overly detract from the performance. The complexities and thick, building textures of his songs are particularly striking live, above all in the storming "The Conformist Takes It All", and it's only to be expected that so many are caught up in his musical world.
We are given a calm moment in between the boisterousness of the other acts with Paul Marshall's lulling folk style. Although the slight squeaking coming from the guitars leads me to suspect he hasn't changed his strings for a while, in every other aspect there are no criticisms that could be levelled. His appealing soft-spoken voice and good control over the performance stand him in excellent stead. The cello lines featured are beautifully wispy, but perhaps are a resource that could be taken advantage of more.
Breath barely caught, we're straight on to Wintermute's set. There's something ultimately so winning about this lot: not only gloriously shambolic and high-octane with brilliant guitar and bass work on show, but also complete with a core of pop sensibility (hidden somewhere in their musical jungle). "Shark Vs E-Boat" and debut single "Gambling or Playing Cards" are perfect examples of this band's capability, sounding fantastically busy and full live.
I remain slightly less convinced by These Monsters. The concept is good - an entirely instrumental band consisting of dual guitar madness, pounding drums, hectic bass and saxophone sent through all manner of seemingly unsuited effects - and the band are clearly good enough instrumentalists to pull it off, except for the looming 'however' on the horizon. The fatal flaw is a lack definition and sense of end-point, although the excessive volume possibly didn't prove all that helpful either. Agreed, prog in general warps the strict strophic-type approach to song writing, but it doesn't ditch it. All the other fundamentals are there in spades, form and structure just need checking occasionally.
The Lodger again seem to fall just short of the mark. Occasionally the long-suffering theme of virtually all of the lyrics seems worn - except, of course, the upcoming single, which was surely the high point of the set and also encouragingly shows a little self-awareness lyrically. Possibly the pessimism would be less overwhelming if between song banter was a little more animated. However, the contrasting bright-and-breezy instrumental style suits them well and the performance is musically very sturdy.
Lastly, This Et Al take to the stage. What ensues is best described as an aural attack in the most positive sense imaginable. A list of the aspects which make the set successful include, as ever, infallible musicianship, admirable grasp of songwriting, their infectious enjoyment of playing live and knowing exactly how to engage the crowd. So, the obvious, hackneyed checklist by which to measure any live band. But it's the enigmatic way in which successful bands make these characteristics marry which ensures a blow-away set every time - and This Et Al certainly fall into that category. Probably best translated into succinct, journalistic English as 'This bodes very well indeed for the second On The Bone Compilation'.
"...bridges the chasm-divided demographics of indie-pop and post-punk excellently" www.drownedinsound.com
Requested personally by Swedish post-rock wonders 'Jeniferever' to be thier tour support, expect lush finger picked melodies ghosting underneath fragile vocal lines that place him somewhere between Nick Drake, Iron and Wine and Red House Painters.
lo-fi experimental indie