The Song That Never Ends (Again) – Withered Hand, Samantha Crain and Adam Stafford live

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Withered Hand / Samantha Crain / Adam Stafford – Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh – Thursday 21st August 2014

My August Edinburgh madness continued last Thursday with an eagerly anticipated Withered Hand headline show at the Queen’s Hall. With a long established favourite opening the show and a completely new name before the headliner, it looked like an intriguing line-up.

MPT favourite Adam Stafford opened the evening and it’s probably fair to say that he wasn’t an obvious choice as an opening act for a show like this.

By his standards Adam played what can fairly be described as a pop set, certainly compared with Aberdeen’s more experimental guitar-less outing recently. Additionally Thursday’s set was rather less complex than that Northern outing.

Much of the set was drawn from ‘Imaginary Walls Collapse’ (including pop hit ‘Vanishing Tanks’ – to the delight of the MPKs) but it was also slightly longer than I’d expected. So there was room for both the classic ‘Shot Down Summer Wannabees’ and a new song which is more song based than the sound collages of the Tunnels show (although hopefully its working title of ‘It’ll Probably be Shite’ doesn’t stick!).

It was a brilliant display of Stafford at his most accessible and hopefully the performance will have won him some new fans. Certainly his set was well received.

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Next up was Samanatha Crain whose name I had seen before but about whom I knew absolutely nothing. Her solo acoustic performance therefore came as a delightful surprise.

I’ve only got positive things to say about her set. She brought a real energy to her performance, both in her singing and her guitar playing, she’s a good storyteller both through her songs and in between.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable set which was particularly well received by the growing audience.

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And so to the headliner. To be honest it wasn’t the best show I’ve seen from Dan – indeed at times it sounded a little flat.

When there’s a 10 piece band on stage, you want to hear all their contributions. Unfortunately there were instruments which just seemed to disappear into the mix, particularly Pete Harvey’s cello, and instead of the zip you’d expect from a big band, the sound ended up rather stodgy. Which is more than a little ironic given how bright and sparkly the production is on the second album.

This was more than a little frustrating because without question Dan has the songs to carry a 90 minutes set like this (just look below at the set list).

But for me it was the slower songs that worked out best on the night, particularly ‘California’ and ‘New Gods’.

The faster songs suffered the most but the likes of ‘New Dawn’ and the irrepressible ‘King of Hollywood’ were notable exceptions.

Content wise, the set largely rejigged the Liquid Room setlist from April but the longer running time lent itself to some notable inclusions in the shape of ‘Hard On’ , ‘Love In The Time of Ecstasy’ and ‘I Am Nothing’.

After thinking that the Liquid Room show was approaching a slick rock gig, this show perhaps redressed the balance, as the band had to restart no fewer than THREE songs! In fact the opening ‘Horseshoe’ was almost halfway through when it fell apart to, it has to be said, some cheering from the crowd.

“Don’t fucking cheer!” was Dan’s reaction to that and the band thereafter maintained a semblance of order until the encores when both ‘New Gods’ and ‘Not Alone’ suffered similar fates!

An intriguing evening then which didn’t quite reach the heights that it might have done. But I’m pretty certain next time will.

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Withered Hand played:

1. Horseshoe 2. Providence 3. Black Tambourine 4. I Am Nothing 5. New Dawn 6. Love Over Desire 7. King of Hollywood 8., Love In The Time of Ecstasy 9. Fall Apart 10. Religious Songs 11. California 12. Between True Love and Ruin 13. Heart, Heart

Encore
14. Cornflake (solo) 15. New Gods 16. Hard On 17. Not Alone

Five Years To Get To This (1) – Randolph’s Leap/Tuff Love photo review

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Randolph’s Leap / Tuff Love – Electric Circus, Edinburgh – Saturday 23rd August 2014

I’m now two written reviews behind schedule and will try and catch up in the course of the week. In the meantime here’s a few photos from last night’s excellent show at the Electric Circus.

I’ve started the photo set with photos of Tuff Love here. Leap photos to be added in the course of the week as well.

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Paper Hat – New Wozniak video

Just to illustrate the diversity on the wonderful ‘Pikes Peak’ E.P., here’s the second video for a track from the record and really the jaunty  ‘Paper Hat’ couldn’t be much more different than the brooding ‘El Maresme’.

There may be a few physical copies of the E.P. still out there in the wild but otherwise you’ll have to rely on downloading it if you don’t already have it.

Wozniak play the Pale Imitation Festival at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh on Saturday (23rd) alongside LAW and Numbers Are Futile.

There Was A Time When All This Felt Right – Meursault live

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Meursault / Plastic Animals – Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh – Wednesday 13th August 2014

So that’s it then. Meursault are done and dusted. And it’s no exaggeration to say that last night’s show at the Queen’s Hall marked the end of a significant chapter in recent Scottish music history.

Over the last few years there is no doubt that the band, led by Neil Pennycook, have been one of Scotland’s most innovative and restless bands. So over the years we got uncompromising recordings (‘All Creatures Make Merry’ in particular) and we got gigs loaded with new songs.

That meant that, occasionally, I admired some work a bit more than I liked it. But, as they evolved and changed at a rapid pace, Meursault were never anything less than intriguing and, much more frequently, rather wonderful.

The nature of the show though indicated that this really is a full stop. For a band that was always looking forward, it was significant that they played “the hits” (as Neil promised MPT (and itm?) last month). As a consequence the main set featured most of the band’s singles as well as select cuts from all three LPs.

That meant that we got to hear many songs for the first times in years and it proved a revelatory experience. Simply put, if that perpetual forward motion had been slowed to just a little extent, it’s not hard to imagine Meursault crossing over to a far wider audience. Not hard at all. And yet, then, they wouldn’t have been the Meursault that we knew and loved. (The past tense is still a bit of a wrench).

So songs like ‘Flitting’ and ‘Settling’, played by a tight band who were clearly having the times of their lives, just sounded massive whilst ‘William Henry Miller Part 1’ was simply joyous.

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The SUPERMOON Comedy Club

Mid set the band were joined by guest backing vocalists for both William Henry Millers. First up was Bartholomew Owl (for Part 2) and, as Neil called him on stage, he clearly had no idea what Bart was wearing (a knee length harlequin onesy!). The look of sheer incredulity on his face when he saw Bart for the first time will stay with the audience for a long time.

The expanded band were then joined on stage by Dan Willson for ‘WHM Part 1’ with Dan apparently taking his cues from notes on a sheet of paper stuffed into his pint glass. One of which he fluffed!

Yet, even if the set was principally about the old stuff, two of the stand-outs were songs that Meursault never recorded. ‘I Will Kill Again’ was taken early on at almost Ramones speed whilst ‘New Boy’ (a song I first heard in the very same venue two years ago) sounded like the pinnacle of the ‘Something for the Weakened’ era of songs. Truly the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck for that one.

The encore illustrated both sides of the band’s nature. A heartbreaking ‘A Small Stretch of Land’ was delivered solo by Neil and his guitar before he was joined by the band for a scalding wig out of ‘Was Ist Das?’ which made the ‘Organ Grinder’ version look timid in comparison.

It’s a mark of how good the show was that, even at 90 minutes, it still felt too short. And I doubt that I’m alone in thinking that.

For a last ever gig, the amount of sadness on display was surprisingly limited. Perhaps the knowledge that Neil will continue to work with this band mitigates against grief as the predominant reaction. And that’s a good thing – this show simply didn’t need any mawkishness to make it a truly special event.

Interestingly the whole occasion seemed framed by the song lyrics  – with “We moved away” from ‘Flittin’‘ bookending the main set and ‘I Will Kill Again’ a declaration of continued intent. It was entirely appropriate too that the first line on the last song “There was a time when all this felt right” wrapped things up – even if few in the audience would agree. But, given that this was the last original song on the last Meursault record, perhaps its significance was overlooked earlier in the year.

Listening back to the three albums side by side in the wake of the show, there are two things that jump out at me. Firstly, whilst the records all unquestionably have an indefinable Meursault-ness, to the untutored ear they must sound like they were recorded by entirely different bands. And secondly despite, no, BECAUSE of their range of approaches and membership deployed, you never got the full Meursault story unless you saw the live shows. In that context last night was the final, fitting piece in an impressively complex jigsaw.

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Plastic Animals

A support slot at a show like this is something of a double edged sword. Whilst it offered Plastic Animals a decent sized audience, the truth is that it’s almost impossible for the support to make an impact in the face of the import of the occasion.

Yet Plastic Animals gave it a good shot and certainly registered with MPT. My uninformed impressions of what they sounded like beforehand (slightly messy rock band) were certainly off the mark. Instead they sounded very much like an early 90s guitar band in the Kitchens of Distinction vein. There’s something else familiar in there too but my synaptic database is refusing to make the correct connections.

Nevertheless if the maximum that can be accomplished in such a slot is to get noticed then Plastic Animals achieved that to my satisfaction.

Meursault played:

1. Flittin’(solo/piano)  2. I Will Kill Again  3. The Dirt and the Roots 4. Salt Part 2  5. Settling  6. What You Don’t Have  7. William Henry Miller (Part 2)  8. William Henry Miller (Part 1)  9. Dearly Distracted  10. Crank Resolutions  11. New Boy  12. Song for Martin Kippenberg  13. Flittin’ (band)

Encore
14. A Small Stretch of Land (solo/guitar)  15. Was Ist Das?

(Think that’s about right – had slight problems with my notes at one point!)

P.S. Given the constant references to how hard it was for people to get the Meursault name correct, I’m not sure if the spelling of “Meursalt” on the ticket was an ironic joke or simply a mistake on the part of the venue!

Millions of Hearts With Scars – Split Single LP review

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There’s been a few albums I’ve been enjoying over the summer but none more so than ‘Fragmented World’ by Split Single so here’s a quick review.

Split Single is the latest project of Jason Narducy, ex Verbow and long time associate of Bob Mould. For the album Narducy recruited Britt Daniel of Spoon and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Bob Mould Band) although the line-up for future live shows will be flexible depending on who’s available to play.

First impressions are that ‘Fragmented World’ is an unassuming record but repeated plays reveal that it’s a terrific album packed with great 60s influenced guitar tunes.

It stretches from the dreamy first single ‘Waiting for the Sun’ through the psychedelia of ‘Last Good Bye’. The power pop of the title track clocks in at under 2 minutes, pulling off that trick common to many great pop songs of leaving the listener wanting more whilst ‘Never Look Back’ has one of the greatest intros to any song this year coupled with an infectious chorus.

I have wondered sometimes if the album really lacks one killer, standout song but what’s great about ‘Fragmented World’ is that the quality never dips throughout.

Here’s the video for the second single from the album ‘Last Goodbye’:

 

Follow What I Never Knew – De Rosa anniversary

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the release of De Rosa’s debut single ‘Camera’. Which is ample reason to flag up the band’s video for the song above.

To mark the occasion, front man Martin Henry is playing a rare De Rosa solo show tomorrow night (Saturday 9th) at Nice’n’Sleazys in Glasgow with Ex-Teens.

It’s funny but it took me a wee while to properly appreciate ‘Camera’ even though it is perhaps the most immediate track on the debut LP ‘Mend’. Initially I thought it was a slightly generic indie rocker which was in the shadow of much of the rest of the record.

However the more that time has passed, the more I’ve appreciated the song and its staying power certainly outlasts anything remotely generic. So enjoy the track and, if you don’t have it, purchase the album from Chemikal Underground.

Looking to the future Martin recently announced on Twitter that recording is complete for the third De Rosa LP. I’d still suspect that we might not see the finished album until early next year (although I’d be delighted if i arrived earlier) but the one gig they’ve played since they reformed suggests that the album will be well worth the wait whenever it appears.

Prior to that though Martin will release an E.P. with the State Broadcasters’ Gillian Fleetwood which he promises is unlike anything he’s done before. That’s being mixed roundabout now and will likely appear later in the year.