Thula Borah / Swearwolves – Nice’n’Sleazy’s, Glasgow – Friday 8th March 2019
To some extent Thula Borah were a band who slightly fell between the cracks for me. I always liked the records but a combination of factors meant that I didn’t see them as often as I’d have liked. So the least I could do was make sure that I didn’t miss last weekend’s farewell show at Sleazy’s.
For those of you unfamiliar with the band, they were pitched somewhere between post-rock and, well, rock. Think a heavier Mogwai and you’re not far away. Thula Borah often relied on their control of rock dynamics to create the drama in their music yet were also able to write memorable tunes that would have sounded good on an acoustic guitar.
They’d hinted in advance that they might play for a while and in the run-up to the show announced that they would indeed play two sets. Which seemed like the only proper way to finish off – given that they don’t have many short songs and have released five albums (EPs only if you insist) even an hour would have seemed woefully insufficient.
Set one commenced with ‘Oppenheimer I’ and ‘Inevitable’ from their debut LP ‘Mind River Matter’, according to Lloyd the first two songs they’d played live at their first gig. It was a great way to ramp up the show’s intensity and set them up for a blistering ‘Estella’ next.
The brilliant ‘Small Margins’ was a highpoint before they showcased their heavier side with both ‘The Psychopath Test’ and ‘Bone Ships’, before finishing the first set with an extended ‘Violence Is Forever’.
Despite what I’ve said above, that set would have been a decent enough send-off in itself but, after a quick of switch of drummers, they were back for the second set which managed to top what had gone before.
It started explosively with early single ‘Dirty Injection’ and went straight into the equally marvellous ‘Confabulation’. Thereafter they demonstrated their range, ‘Skye Falling’ representing the more song orientated side of the band whilst ‘Zero Progression’ (apparently only included following a friend’s suggestion) was the perfect example of their skill at building and sustaining moods before letting loose for the song’s finale.
That left just ‘Oppenheimer II’ to finish the show and first set drummer Mikey returned to the stage to add an extra guitar for an appropriately massive finale.
And that was it – the final act of a fine band who never reached the sort of audience that they deserved. Although there were apparently a couple of signs of wider interest in the band at different points during their ten years of activity, these never translated into anything concrete leaving them to plough their own furrow relying only on their own resources.
No matter how good a band is, it must ultimately be hard to continue when you’re struggling to reach a wider audience and real life starts to intrude.
I’m sad that I’m not going to see them play live again and am definitely going to miss the lack of a new record every couple of years. But the one consolation is that they have left an impressive body of work behind and that it’s still out there for folk to discover. Indeed, for much of the past week, I’ve been listening to a lot of Thula Borah on Spotify (particularly ‘Mind River Matter’, which was back catalogue by the time I first heard them) in the process at least contributing micro-pennies to the Thula Borah Retiral Fund.
The band did record the show so it might see the light of day at some stage but in the meantime I’ve collected the songs performed on the evening into one playlist:
A quick word about the support, Swearwolves (below). It’s not an easy type of show to play but their brand of melodic rock made a good impression. Fresh from the festival circuit last year 😉 they had plenty of energy and some decent chat. Think they made a few friends.
Here’s the full set of photos from the show:
And here’s some outtakes, which were only really left out to try and keep the numbers down to a reasonable level: