DINOSAUR PILE UP
Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, August 26 * *

Edinburgh’s got numerous unusual spaces that have been, for better and for worse, converted into music venues. The latest to join the ranks is Sneaky Pete’s, a fairly nondescript bar save for the massive pillar rising from the middle of the floor. Tonight with numbers struggling to reach fifty the obstruction was easily negotiated, sadly however the issue of sound was harder to ignore.
Ironically the sound was at its best behind the pillar – not an ideal vantage point from which to view headliners Dinosaur Pile Up. To actually see the trio ply their noisy trade you had to endure acoustics best described as atrocious.
Walls of distortion and overwhelming bass rendered singer/guitarist Matt Bigland’s vocals all but meaningless on most tracks. A couple almost survived unscathed, both Rock ‘N’ Roll and All Around The World showcasing the band’s post Nirvana style favourably thanks to the immediacy of the melody and their use of the quiet/loud/quiet dynamic.
However despite their passion and a broken snare drum, masterfully replaced without losing a beat by drummer Steve Wilson, there was a certain predictability to some songs, Melanin and Love Is A Boat the two main culprits.
After a thirty minute set it’s hard to tell what the future holds for the three-piece, but one thing’s for sure, they’ll never sound worse than they did tonight at one very Sneaky Pete’s.

BIFFY CLYRO
Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, August 21 * * * *

You don’t necessarily have to be a Biffy Clyro fan to enjoy and appreciate a Biffy Clyro gig. Their heart-on-sleeve honesty, raw passion and ability to whip a crowd, no matter what the size, into a frenzied sweaty mass makes them arguably one of the best live bands currently plying its trade on the road.
While venues continue to get bigger with every album, the band’s sound and intensity has remained constant, stuck on eleven and showing no signs of dropping. They’re a trio who thrive live and tonight in front of a vociferous sell-out crowd they did just that.
Every angular jolt of frantic guitar seemed to send shockwaves through the fifty-deep throng at the front of the stage, sparking the kind of fervor most bands can only dream of. Feeding off the crowd’s energy singer Simon Neil was like a man possessed, wrestling his guitar with an all-consuming passion between bouts of screamed vocals.
They were at their most potent on the colossal Who’s Got A Match, new single That Golden Rule and crowd favourite Mountains, but judging by the discussions post gig, for many it was the emotionally-charged phones-in-the-air Machines which provided tonight’s enduring memory.

CRYSTAL STILTS
Stereo, Glasgow, August 18 * * *

After a memorable display at the Captains Rest back in February, New Yorkers Crystal Stilts returned to Glasgow this evening and the more spacious surrounds of Stereo. But unlike their first appearance where a packed crowd threatened to swamp the stage, tonight the half-full basement venue lacked the intensity of atmosphere that contributed to make that night such a success.
Instead the elevated stage, intermittently poor sound and a far from enthusiastic crowd combined to lessen the impact of what could have been another potent display.
That said there was still much to savour musically during their somewhat insular performance. Played at breakneck speed, The Dazzle and Crystal Stilts were early highlights. The latter saw enigmatic singer Brad Hargett at the peak of his powers, delivering maudlin monotone vocals with deadpan aplomb.
As the set progressed there were moments when the droning nature of some songs, and Hargett’s love of reverb, threatened to blur where one track ended and another began but with The SinKing all the elements of the band’s psychedelic garage rock came together in some style.
Given the fleeting applause that came their way it may not have been the end of tour high they’d hoped for but with audience numbers swelling and the critics by-and-large on side, the follow-up to debut Alight of Night should be eagerly anticipated.

Múm @ oran Mor 15-08-09

August 28, 2009

Múm
Oran Mor, Glasgow, August 15 * * * *

A breakdown en route to Glasgow almost put paid to tonight’s performance by Icelandic septet Múm. Thankfully however those of us who made the trip to Oran Mor weren’t disappointed as, mechanical difficulties aside, it was a faultless visit.
Given Iceland’s two biggest musical exports are Bjork and Sigur Ros it’s maybe not surprising fellow countrymen, and countrywoman, Múm isn’t your average band.
Their songs are full of different components. Abstract seeds of sound are harnessed alongside conventional instruments to create songs rich in melody that possess an underlying cinematic quality capable of casting a spell over a receptive crowd.
Tonight for 70 minutes they did just that, taking us on an at times bewitching journey through their quirky but strangely compelling musical landscapes. Marmalade Fires and Blessed Brambles, both lifted from fourth album Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy, exemplified the very organic nature of their music.
The latter in particular, with its unexpected twists and turns, was hard to resist. As was multi-instrumentalist singer Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason’s sense of humour. It along with the band’s obvious delight at the reaction their songs provoked helped make it a night to remember.

FAITH NO MORE
Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, August 25 * * * *

The return of Faith No More was undoubtedly the most eagerly-awaited gig of this year’s Edge Festival. Eleven years on since they split, the pioneers of alternative metal reunited back in February, much to the delight of their legions of loyal fans. Little wonder then that tonight’s show sold out in a matter of hours.
They may have arrived thirty minutes late but ultimately the delay only served to heighten the sense of anticipation. The theme from Midnight Cowboy made for an atmospheric if somewhat sombre opener but as you’d expect it was the calm before the inevitable storm.
A whirlwind of sound erupted on cue with From Out Of Nowhere and Be Aggressive, both bursting out of the blocks with the help of a charged-up Mike Patton, the singer’s immense presence and maniacal delivery instantly galvanizing the packed crowd.
For sheer exhilaration there was no beating the colossal Midlife Crisis, complete with Eastenders theme, and the epic Epic. Played back to back they proved a potent reminder of just how explosive Faith No More’s music can be.
Overall the five-piece was simply unstoppable. Even the poor sound synonymous with the Corn Exchange couldn’t take the edge off what was a sublimely brutal barrage from San Francisco’s finest.

ANDREW BIRD
HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, August 23 * * * * *

In the wrong singer/songwriter’s hands, or rather feet, loop pedals can make shows feel gimmicky, regardless of the music’s sentiment. Unfortunately, for every innovator like say Laura Veirs, there’s a David Ford or KT Tunstall for whom the act of using said gadget often appears more important than the actual music.
For Chicago-born Andrew Bird, the loop pedal is a tool to bring his music to life on stage – it’s functional rather than a theatrical aid. He could use a backing band but it probably wouldn’t generate the same intimate, personal vibe that ensured a dedicated silence was observed for the duration of tonight’s immaculate 14-song set.
It’s little wonder such a reverent hush fell over the audience as at times his music and delivery left us speechless, reaching for superlatives during sustained bursts of applause after each and every song.
Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the left and Fitz and the Dizzyspells with their layers of plucked, strummed and bowed violin, whistled samples and rounded off by Bird’s smooth versatile vocals dazzled early on while Natural Disaster, Effigy and crowd favourite Scythian Empires further enhanced an already sublime evening’s entertainment.

THE STRANGLERS
HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, August 7 * * *

After an eighteen year absence, punk survivors The Stranglers made a welcome return to the capital tonight for what, if rumours are to be believed, might be the last time. Charged with kicking off the second year of the Edge Festival, the quartet certainly didn’t disappoint the loyal legions of fans who packed out the Picture House.
A rousing rendition of Waltzin’ Black from accordionist Jock the Box ensured the stage was set and the atmosphere charged for the arrival of a band set to celebrate its 35th birthday come the autumn.
The four-piece didn’t waste any time getting down to the business at hand. In fact it’s fair to say no time was wasted at any stage during the band’s glitch-free 25-song set. However their machine-like efficiency involving little in the way of crowd-interaction ultimately worked against them as although momentum was never lost it was a performance that often felt routine.
A mixed bag of tracks and playing crowd pleasers like Peaches, Always The Sun and Golden Brown early on meant proceedings seemed to drag in the latter stages. That said however, it didn’t matter to the hordes of punters determined to revel in every last moment of a display best described as one for the life-long fans.

MITCHELL MUSEUM
King Tut’s, Glasgow, August 1 * * *

Glasgow outfit Mitchell Museum are another Scottish band quietly making a name for themselves without the kind of off-putting hype that too often engulfs a group early on in its development.
The quartet’s debut album should get a release come the autumn but in the meantime followers of the band will have to settle for second single Tiger Heartbeat, the launch of which was the pretext for tonight’s appearance at Tut’s.
There’s a childlike quality to Mitchell Museum’s music which, when coupled with Cammy MacFarlane’s enthusiastic but somewhat ramshackle delivery style, really made the songs come alive.
With that in mind, debut 7″ Warning Bells was easily their best offering, the four sounding like a Scottish Spinto Band. Quirky, possessing a real immediacy it cast its hook early and never let go. Less successful were Extra Lives and Rooms For Improvement while a new untitled track felt distinctly cut-and-paste.
As for the new single, although not without the odd flash of inspiration, it lacked the charm of its predecessor. Still overall highpoints like Arthur Loves The Shadows and Novels & Diaries ensured a warm response from the meagre but appreciative crowd.

THE VICTORIAN ENGLISH GENTLEMENS CLUB
Glasgow, King Tut’s, August 5 * * * *

Ridiculously-named bands are commonplace these days, the trick is being remembered for your music rather than elongated monikers that do little but draw sneers.
Tonight’s grammatically challenged four-piece The Victorian English Gentlemens Club may labour under a preposterous label, but on stage, where it counts, they showed a genuine honesty and an ability to make the much-used quiet/loud dynamic work in their favour.
It’s a shame then that more people didn’t make the trip to Tut’s tonight as their no-nonsense approach helped the quartet put in a memorable display that should make their next visit an altogether busier affair.
Throughout, sporadic outbursts of maniacal vocals, a heavy-duty rhythm section and fuzzed-up guitars lent proceedings a distinctly Pixies-like air – satisfyingly noisy, melodically intriguing. At the moment they may lack the kind of hooks capable of catapulting them to the giddy heights occupied by Black Francis and Co, but the signs are still positive.
The fact TVEGC were at their best on tracks lifted from soon-to-be-released second album Love On An Oil Rig bodes well for the Cardiff-based outfit. Certainly if stand-out song Bored In Belgium is anything to go by, TVEGC is one of the few bands deserving of the equally ridiculous moniker ‘ones-to-watch’.

GLINT
Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, July 24 * * *

The signs weren’t promising tonight and that was before Glint even ventured out of their dressing room. A lack of interest in tonight’s show meant the New Yorkers’ first performance in Scotland became a free gig, but even instigating an open door policy failed to attract much of a crowd. Those that did venture into the basement venue witnessed a well-honed display but one which overall failed to leave any lasting impression.
A tendency to stretch songs to breaking point with repetitive protracted endings meant the urgency of tracks like Kernel Panic and Hold Still was diluted by the four-piece’s epic intentions.
It wasn’t just the band’s synth-infused indie-rock music which seemed over-egged at times. Frontman Jase Blankfort’s roots in theatre were all too evident throughout. His pleading hand gestures and tortured soul histrionics were such that, during Friends and Man Vs Man you half expected him to produce a skull and launch into a soliloquy. However it was the unremarkable nature of much of the set that ensured polite rather than enthusiastic applause trickled from the crowd.