It’s been a busy couple of weeks and with festival season still in full swing we can see no letting up in a demanding schedule. This weekend however, I took a look at the Scottish weather forecast and promptly passed on my T in the Park duties to someone who actually owns a pair of wellies. Instead Eartwister chose to stay at home in sunny Manchester and take in six bands starting with Dresden, House Of Three Hands and Super 8 Cynics at the Longevity Records showcase, Night & Day Café.
Way back in February we reviewed a couple of tracks by Dresden and very fine they proved to be too. So why has it taken us so long to follow it up with a live review, well the answer in truth is simple, they just don’t play live that often. Tonight however, they are forced to stick their collective heads above the parapet in support of the release of new single ‘Fibua’.
Opener ‘Shadow’ (as set list) is sparse and beautiful with lilting piano and Ryan Magee’s vocal almost introspective as it gently draws you in. It’s difficult not to make comparisons with local heroes Elbow, but think also Radiohead when Yorke and co are not trying to bury all semblance of melancholic melody which once was their stock and trade.
Dresden, like both Elbow and Radiohead, clearly take a great care when constructing their wares, each song layered with subtleties and subliminal hooks that underline that this is far from their first time round the block. Their use of dynamics is equally skilled taking you from the faintest of whispers to a full on cavalry charge. At times the sound is so big it’s only rivalled by some of the waistlines on show. Ok, it’s a cheap shot, but as we more than alluded to in our last review they are hardly a marketing man’s wet dream and the live show could benefit from some fine tweaking too.
That said, they write good songs (that’s the hard part right??) and Longevity as a label deserve praise for giving them some sort of platform from which they’ll hope to progress.
‘Enough Is Never Enough’ is strong tonight whilst the anthemic ‘Black Cloud’ also rises to the occasion. They close the set with new single ‘Fibua’, a bass and synth driven slab of what could only be described as electro indie disco, all rippling hi-hats and four to the floor like a brooding Pet Shop Boys on a cocktail of steroids and valium. I’ll leave you to get off your arses and discover for yourselves whether that’s a good idea or not.
Longevity’s first offering this evening is House Of Three Hands, purveyors of indie guitar shenanigans, the Cumbrian three piece recently relocated to take up places at university and ply their trade in the state of Mancunia.
It’s early days for Messrs Brown, Wedgwood and Annis but there are certainly signs of promise. In particular Wedgwood’s guitar playing, all chops and syncopated riffs, is delivered like a whirlwind, propelling the songs forward as if his life depended on it. They have a slight feel of a stripped down Foals about them, perhaps a touch of Tokyo Police Club and modest Mouse too. The first release with Longevity is ‘Trepidation’ (August 6th), which if a little tentative tonight is still a step in the right direction. Brown’s vocal is clean and there’s testament to thought in his lyrics, but we’ve never been quite certain about bass playing front-men at Twister HQ and here the arguing begins. It seems to us that too often one discipline suffers at the expense of the other and that’s rarely a good thing. That doesn’t mean to say that House of Three Hands are condemned in our eyes, far from it. It does mean however, that the jury is hung, at least until all the evidence is in.
Tonight is the first time we at Eartwister have faced an age old reviewer’s quandary. You see we know the boys at Longevity Records and fully support them and anyone that in turn supports new music; it’s the worthiest of causes. There is also the fact that the cooperative of Eartwister’s mothers have been relentlessly tweeting that ‘If you can’t say anything nice then say nothing at all.’ These are of course fine words, and advice that in the normal scheme of things we would follow to the letter. The dilemma lies however in the promise we made our readers, a no holds barred experience, the truth as we see and hear it, with no exceptions. So there you have it, to listen to mother and break our own rules or to uphold the Eartwister doctrine and bugger the consequences?
Sandwiched between House of Three Hands and Dresden tonight are four piece electro new wavers Super 8 Cynics. Firmly steeped in a latter-day Duran Duran mould there’s nothing particularly offensive about Super 8’s music per se, it’s just impossible to take them seriously. Indeed, on tonight’s showing I’m not sure if they take themselves seriously.
In Jack Ellis (bass) and Paul Barlow (drums) they certainly have a rhythm section that make all the right noises, but then the lines get blurred. As vocalist Ady Hall strikes a succession of poses more fitting to a festival headline slot or a Depeche video set, I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed as he urges the meagre gathering to raise their arms aloft and clap along, not for the first time. Yet he’s far from alone in the over-blown gesture stakes, as keyboard player Mike Healey seems unable to keep his non playing hand from shooting skyward looking as if he’s waving to his mum in the back row. A keytar solo is not long in coming, assume the ‘Slash’ like position, and I find myself edging closer to the door. Then there’s the new single, a cover version of Seona Dancing’s ‘Bitter Heart’. Now if that in some way sounds familiar to you, it’s because the original was sung by a then unknown Ricky Gervais back in 1983, and has since been wheeled out on numerous chat shows for the sole purpose of mirth. London Records could only drag the song to 79 in the charts first time round so what possessed them? The fact that it takes them two attempts to get it right after losing sync with the backing track is neither here nor there. So come on boys, ‘Please please tell me now is there something I should know’?
At this point we would like to apologise to the Eartwister mums but rules are rules after all.