THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE
Stereo, Glasgow, July 14 *

Tonight was The Birthday Massacre’s first and with any luck last Scottish show. It’s not that the Canadian six-piece weren’t entertaining at times, it’s just that when they did entertain it was for all the wrong reasons.
From the off it was hard not to snigger at the frequent bouts of synchronised pogo-ing, the clich├ęd posturing and singer Chibi’s laboured presence. Equally it was difficult to stifle the yawns that all too often accompanied songs devoid of ideas.
Add into the equation watery sound and it all became a bit like a school band playing the assembly hall – not that perfect sound would have made much difference. Opener Red Stars epitomised the sextet’s brand of ethereal electro-goth-rock, occasionally menacing but ultimately limp.
Without the hooks capable of backing up their grandstanding tendencies the music became secondary and, consequently, the delivery comedic. It meant any sinister undertones took on cartoon dimensions. Not that that deterred the pocket of diehards who bounced and clapped when prompted.
Video Kid provoked the most shrieks of delight from the small predominately female audience but with the initial mini hysteria and the atmosphere it generated short-lived, it was a minor blip of excitement in an otherwise boring night.

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SPARROW AND THE WORKSHOP
King Tut’s, Glasgow, July 7 * * * *

Recently seen supporting Broken Records on their UK tour, Glasgow-based trio Sparrow and the Workshop made a headlining return to Tut’s tonight. Appearing on the back of their first Glastonbury, the band put in an assured display well worthy of the warm reaction their performance provoked.
It’s still early days for the three-piece, judging by tonight’s poor turn-out, but with a knack for creative arrangements, singer/guitarist/violinist Jill O’Sullivan’s soulful, country-tinged vocals and an undeniable ability to create melodies that take you unawares, it’s only a matter of time before crowd numbers rise.
Songs like Gun, Broken Heart Broken Home and Swam Like Sharks should stand them in good stead, each one possessing moments capable of truly captivating a crowd. Add to that an endearing unpolished delivery style and a natural stage presence and you have something with the potential to dazzle.
That said not every track quite hit the mark. Openers Cast Chance and Horse’s Grin felt fairly run-of-the-mill while Crossing Hearts seemed confused – a sudden bout of crackly sound didn’t help matters either. However finishing off with I Will Break You and Devil Song ensured the night ended on a high.

The Seventeenth Century
Glasgow, King Tut’s

Of the new bands emerging from Glasgow this year The Seventeenth Century is without a doubt the most exciting prospect. Don’t be put off by the name, there’s not a lute in sight as the five-piece shuffle on stage tonight. Instead on opener Roses In The Park, violin and cornet weave seamlessly with guitar, drums and bass to create a folk-infused sound that soon silences any doubters in the busy crowd.
Singer/violinist Mark Farmer is a mass of nervous energy. Rocking back and forth, delivering impassioned vocals with genuine intensity. His presence is magnetic, the music at times captivating. No wonder then the applause rings out long after frantic final offering Young Francis.

ATHLETE
Oran Mor, Glasgow, June 30 * *

After safely negotiating tricky-second-album-syndrome thanks to the commercially successful Tourist LP, London five-piece Athlete fell off the radar with 2007’s follow-up Beyond The Neighbourhood.
A downsizing of venue inevitably follows a dip in record sales, so tonight those who’ve stuck with the Londoners found themselves sweltering in the airless basement of Oran Mor. Whether Athlete can resurrect their fortunes, appearing at an O2 or ABC will largely depend on how latest album Black Swans is received come August but on the evidence of tonight they may have to get used to more intimate surrounds.
Inoffensive indie-pop at best, it was a dull performance overall and one which although eagerly lapped up by the faithful, felt rather earnest and devoid of ideas.
Like so many of their ilk, Athlete is a squashed badger of a band, embedded firmly in the middle-of-the-road. Unremarkable ballad Black Swan Song was the worst offender while early singles You Got The Style and El Salvador felt dated beyond their six years.
The only consolation came in the form of final number Wires, but given the heat and the monotony of what had gone before it was scant reward for enduring such an uneventful set.