WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS
Cabaret Voltaire, Glasgow, February 22 * * * *

We Were Promised Jetpacks are the latest Scottish band to sign with Fat Cat Records. Joining fellow Scots The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit on the label’s roster, the Glasgow-based quartet owe a great deal to their Rabbit friends, without whom they’d probably still be unsigned.
Tonight they may have been second on the bill to The Spinto Band but there’s no doubt the Jetpacks were the main attraction at the Cabaret Voltaire such was the scramble to find a spot from which to view the stage.
Like their label mates, WWPJ’s music resonates with honesty and passion, a fact not lost on a packed crowd only too happy to treat the four-piece like conquering heroes – no mean achievement given they’ve yet to release their debut album.
Creative arrangements and a telling knack for conjuring up strong melodies capable of catching listeners unawares stood the four-piece in good stead throughout with songs like opener Keeping Warm, Moving Clocks Run Slow and Ships With Holes Will Sink showing a real depth in songwriting.
A straightforward no thrills approach, and music which obviously comes from the heart, meant they easily won over the crowd and should ensure their next appearance in the capital is upgraded to a bigger venue.

CRYSTAL STILTS
Captains Rest, Glasgow, February 21 * * * *

They may have taken to the stage thirty or so minutes late but when Crystal Stilts did eventually lurch into action it proved well worth the wait as a receptive crowd watched on, or rather listened given the viewing restraints, as the Brooklyn five-piece delivered an intense and at times hypnotic psychedelic-pop display.
Here to promote debut album Alight of Night, the band struck up an early rapport with the audience thanks to lively opener Through The Flow and an effortless presence.
The slightly disorganised, shambolic air of their performance – epitomised by man-of-few-words singer Brad Hargett – only served to add to the charm and NY cool that pervaded proceedings.
Hargett’s Ian Curtis-isms – doom-laden monotone voice and steely stare – proved a powerful combination throughout, lending a dark brooding quality to a set that rarely dipped in potency.
Soaked in reverb, driven along by Frankie Rose’s galloping drums The Dazzled, Sycamore Tree and Prismatic Room showed these 60s revivalists aren’t mere mimics while set highlight Crystal Stilts with its mournful vocal and sinister surf guitar proved a transfixing three minutes.

ST DELUXE
Captains Rest, Glasgow, February 12 * * * *

Stadiums may have giant screens to enable the masses to see what’s happening but at the Captains Rest if you want to watch as well as listen, your best bet is viewing proceedings through the bloke-in-front’s mobile phone.
Even without much of a view it was an impressive start from St Deluxe tonight. Fuzzed-up guitars, singer Jamie Cameron’s slacker drawl and a couple of great pop hooks made Slip Away and single New Wave Star real attention-grabbers.
You can understand why the quartet has seen its reputation grow in recent months, although Alan McGhee’s assertion that St Deluxe is “a Scottish Nirvana for the 21st century” is a contentious and, not surprisingly, media-friendly statement from the man who not so long ago sang the praises of Sergeant.
The honesty of the music and their performance was obvious throughout but even that at times wasn’t enough to prevent events taking a slightly dull turn as the set progressed. Can’t Change lacked the pop bluster of its predecessors and, like Stupid Ideas, seemed laboured as it reached its protracted conclusion.
Well-received, tonight’s fifty or so minutes showed a lot of promise and felt genuine but comparisons to Nirvana, whatever the century, are just a tad fanciful.

THE DYKEENIES
King Tut’s, Glasgow, February 18 * *

They may be down a man, and in the case of Brian and Andrew Henderson a brother too, after guitarist Alan Henderson’s musical differences led to his departure, but that hasn’t deterred The Dykeenies. They’re still, like their choice of intro music suggests, a Band of Brothers.
Tonight the Cumbernauld four-piece was never going to struggle to convince the faithful, but even the most partisan punters seemed less than enthralled by much of the new material aired, forthcoming single Sounds of the City the worst offender. Instead they were at their happiest and most vocal on ironically-titled New Ideas, the derivative Stitches and Clean Up Your Eyes, all of which featured the obligatory chorus of happy clapping.
While the band’s indie-pop style was very much in fashion when they first came to prominence on the back of a 2007 NME tour, tonight their samey guitar sound, linear and ultimately predictable songs felt dated.
Grim banter and a lack of presence didn’t help their cause either but it didn’t seem to matter to the minority in the crowd who gleefully sang Flower of Scotland before the band returned for their encore.

THE SECRET MACHINES
King Tut’s, Glasgow, February 11 * * * *

New York-based trio Secret Machines made a name for themselves back in 2004 with the power and potency of their live shows promoting debut Now Here Is Nowhere. Five years and two albums later the trio has returned with an eponymous LP and a change in line-up – Phil Karnats replacing Ben Curtis on guitar.
The line-up’s not the only thing to have changed in recent years. More polished, less psychedelic and with a nod to prog-rock, The Secret Machines is a band in transition. Their musical evolution has been a matter of some debate among critics but ultimately the best way to judge a band is live.
Whether they did enough to convince on the new material is debatable. Of the three new album tracks aired Atomic Heels easily stood out, its typically strong rhythm and more focused approach helping outshine the flimsy The Walls Are Starting To Crack and lacklustre Now You’re Gone, neither of which made any lasting impact.
Where the packed crowd, and band, really sparked into life was on established favourites Nowhere Again and final number First Wave Intact, drummer Josh Garza’ s relentless groove driving the trio along in considerable style especially on the latter.

Hip Parade @ Tut’s 09-02-09

February 18, 2009

HIP PARADE
King Tut’s, Glasgow, February 9 * * *

Hip Parade aren’t exactly a new band. They’d been going for five years before Channel 4’s Unsigned Act show brought them to national attention. Last month the four-piece were runners-up to fellow Glaswegian Tommy Reilly, so now’s the time to make the most of their new found fame.
If tonight’s anything to go on they’re certainly going to give it their all, but then you’d expect that from these seasoned performers. They, and in particular frontman Rob Shah, know how to work a crowd, their family, friends and fans lapped up every second of their seven-song set.
You can understand the quartet’s appeal, they delivered each three minute slice of middle-of-the-road indie-rock with real energy, and in the case of crowd surfing singer Shah, reckless abandon.
However musically there was little to make you think the four-piece haven’t already found their biggest audience. Crowd-friendly, inoffensive and peppered with woeful lyrics, songs like Girl On The Radio and Getting Chased lacked any real depth while worst offender Dynamite was at best mindless.

LATE OF THE PIER
Oran Mor, Glasgow, February 8 * * *

Given their Smash Hits, sorry NME earned endorsement, and appearances on the under-age gig scene it’s no great surprise that Oran Mor had a distinctly youthful vibe tonight for the appearance of Late of the Pier.
The English quartet pump out futuristic 80s electro-pop capable of creating a throng on the dance floor and tonight they did just that. Such was the frenetic pace of their ten-song set that they didn’t even overrun despite being considerably later than billed on stage.
It’s a shame then that when the band did finally appear we were subjected to overwhelming jolts of foundation-shaking bass. It all but obliterated Space And The Woods, Heartbeat and Random Firl, multi-instrumentalist singer Samuel Dust’s vocals lost on each occasion.
Not that it seemed to bother a crowd intent of making the most of their over 14s tickets. Their enthusiasm and energy were reflected by proceedings onstage where the four, clearly enjoying themselves, went about their business with the kind of purpose you’d expect from a band determined to make their fans dance.
All in all it was an entertaining spectacle but with too many tracks feeling disjointed and over-developed it was more about the performance than the music.

Mongrel @Tut’s 06-02-09

February 13, 2009

MONGREL
King Tut’s, Glasgow, February 6 * * *

Once they were purely known as supergroups but these days inter-band projects prefer to be called collectives. It’s certainly a term that fits Mongrel well. No doubt named for the band’s mix of influences and styles, theirs is a distinctly politicised communal approach to music.
The biggest “name” in the line-up and certainly the most outspoken is Jon McClure. Leader of Reverend and the Makers, McClure is something of a marmite figure in the world of indie after his Alex Turner career kick-start.
Ironically tonight he proved the weakest link musically, his faux rap and Tim Westwood-isms felt comedic at times while his Daniel Beddingfield meets Norman Wisdom vocals failed to lend the necessary passion required to deliver lyrics written to protest the world’s social injustices.
Of the three vocal artists to take up mic duties, it was UK hip hopper Lowkey who really made his presence felt. His passion and sentiment was clear even if the lyrics weren’t. An ability to work the busy crowd didn’t hurt his credentials either especially among those partisan diehards down the front during Free Palestine.
As a band setting out to highlight their chosen injustices it’s hard to say with any conviction that Mongrel was successful tonight. Sure the crowd sang along when prompted but mindless sections also indulged in the “here we f**king go” chant, a barometer of idiot-indie if ever there was one.

MIDDLE CLASS RUT
King Tut’s, Glasgow, February 1 * * * *

If you’re part of a rock duo there’s nowhere to hide when you hit the stage. If you’re the support band too you really have to grab the crowd by the scruff of the neck from the get go. Sacramento twosome Middle Class Rut did just that as they roared into action with a visceral slab of guitar and drum-fuelled noise, their opening untitled salvo guaranteeing a busy Tut’s crowd were focused on the stage and nowhere else.
It’s testament to an unerring self-belief and their obvious passion for playing that even when the music, and in particular guitarist Zack Lopez’s vocals, proved distinctly sub-par the energy of the performance saw them through.
Saying that, there was no faulting New Low. With drummer Sean Stockham’s more pronounced vocals and the use of a background sample lending a real ethereal feel, it provided the duo with their most melodic and instantly accessible moment.
Final number, debut single Busy Bein’ Born, again showed MCR’s more tuneful and less brutal side. Lopez’s Perry Farrell-esque delivery coupled with Stockham’s explosive drumming made sure the two-piece went out on a frenetic high.

The Cribs @ ABC1 04-02-09

February 9, 2009

THE CRIBS / THE THERMALS
ABC1, Glasgow, February 4 * * *

When Johnny Marr joined The Cribs last year the news was met with some surprise in the music world. Marr, a long-time fan of the Wakefield trio’s work, is still a member of Modest Mouse and will soon be heading back to tour the States with his day job. But before he does there’s a mini Cribs tour to rattle through and a new album to record with the Jarman brothers.
They would have rattled through tonight’s set a lot quicker if not for the unpredictability of their vintage gear. It’s not a criticism in terms of losing momentum between songs but rather it made the gig last longer, and given the less than sparkling display emanating from the stage that was an unnecessary hardship for those of us less than thrilled by the quartet’s lacklustre performance.
However the vast majority of the sold-out crowd were more than happy to pogo along when the four-piece belted out singles like Hey Scenesters and Men’s Needs but tellingly much of the new material sounded unfinished, at times shambolic and subsequently failed to convince.
Second on the bill, Portland trio The Thermals showed flashes of what might be on tracks like Here’s Your Future and You Dissolve but like the headliners it was a set of few highlights.