JAY REATARD
King Tut’s, Glasgow, November 11 * * * *

Critical acclaim doesn’t necessarily translate into ticket sales, a fact Jay Reatard must be only too aware of as, like his last trip to Glasgow, it was another dishearteningly poor turn-out for the Memphis songwriter.
His energetic brand of garage-punk has earned him numerous plaudits and, after debut album Blood Visions, a deal with highly-credible New York label Matador, through which sophomoric LP Watch Me Fall was released back in August.
The right tour support in the UK would surely boost his profile as once you’ve seen Jay Reatard live you’re unlikely to forget him. The word that sprung to mind throughout what was a rapid-fire seventeen-song set was ‘onslaught’.
Accompanied by a drummer and bassist, Reatard launched assault after assault with the help of his Flying V and swathes of distortion. Pausing for breath wasn’t an option, for the band or the crowd. Song after song either bled into the next or titles were barked through a mess of sweat-drenched hair.
Gloriously raucous, See Saw and Faking It rattled along at blistering pace while There Is No Sun’s more overtly melodic side and uplifting chorus was the pick of the new tracks. Final number Trapped Here brought the attack to an end in considerable style, the song’s jammed finale ensuring the few of us in attendance went home happy.

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BROKEN RECORDS
Oran Mor, Glasgow, November 8 * * *

It’s been a year of two halves for Edinburgh’s Broken Records. Before the release of Until The Earth Begins To Part, the septet seemed to be heading in the right direction – crowds and column inches were growing steadily.
However since receiving distinctly average reviews for their debut back in June, the band has struggled to command the same levels of interest. Proof tonight came courtesy of a sparse turnout that struggled to half fill the Oran Mor’s basement venue.
That lack of punters made awkward silences between songs a constant factor and one which ultimately prompted a certain degree of sympathy for a band coming to terms with the flipside of the press.
“Big and brash” was how singer Jamie Sutherland described Until The Earth before easing into the title track from recently re-released EP Out On The Water. But without the kind of euphoric changes and hooks of their Arcadian influences, most songs were just brash – building to a predictable plateau, they left the listener waiting for a crescendo that never came
Balkan-ised folk numbers Lies, If Eilert Loveborg Wrote A Song It Would Sound Like This and A Good Reason did inject some much-needed energy into proceedings but it wasn’t enough to distract from what had been an underwhelming performance from an average band.

Grizzly Bear @ ABC1 02-11-09

November 13, 2009

GRIZZLY BEAR
ABC1, Glasgow, November 2 * * * * *

From cult outsiders to Billboard top 10 artists, Grizzly Bear has found its audience share increase significantly since the critical and mainstream success of third album Veckatimest earlier this year – another sold-out crowd, this time in the cavernous surrounds of the ABC1 further proof of that.
Despite niggling technical problems this was a stunning performance from the four-piece and one which, thanks to the all-consuming nature of songs like Fine For Now, Deep Blue Sea and While You Wait For The Others, will certainly live long in the memory.
More often than not lighting at gigs is an afterthought but not tonight. Set up around the stage, suspended from poles, lanterns added to the ethereal vibe that permeated much of the four-piece’s set.
Playing larger venues has allowed Grizzly Bear to make more of a visual impact and on the epic Lullabye, the marriage of light and sound couldn’t have been more perfect. From its gradual build-up, through dark lush harmonies to a potent climax, it dazzled and dizzied in equal measures.
At times reminiscent of Pink Floyd it was a truly hypnotic display. Foreground’s ominous air further heightened the atmosphere, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention and although there were a few grumbles regarding set list omissions, it was a happy crowd that departed after a sublime encore of He Hit Me.

BOWERBIRDS
Glasgow, Captains Rest, October 31 * * * *

The last time Bowerbirds played Glasgow it was to promote debut album Hymns for a Dark Horse. That night the duo put on a captivating display at The Admiral in front of the smallest of crowds. Tonight they repeated the trick but sadly it was another sparse turnout for the North Carolina group.
They may have been dressed up, in singer/guitarist Phil Moore’s words, as “average Americans” for this their Halloween show, but there certainly wasn’t anything average about the band’s music or performance.
The charismatic Moore was undoubtedly the star of the show thanks to vocals that made you hang on his every lyric. Emotive, honest and on Hooves in particular, spellbinding, it was hard not to be drawn into Bowerbirds’ lyrically evocative world.
Fittingly, of the songs taken from recent second album Upper Air, it was Northern Lights that shone brightest although Crooked Lust came a close second.
Not missing a trick, halfway through Moore enlisted the audience’s help on a modified or rather spookified rendition of Ghost Life. It may have strayed into pantomime territory initially but such was the band’s enthusiasm for our participation it proved another endearing and memorable moment.

EFTERKLANG
Oran Mor, Glasgow, October 30 * * * * *

It’s a pity punters were so thin on the ground tonight for the visit of Danish experimentalists Efterklang. The sincerity of their performance alone was enough to make the trip to Oran Mor, on what was a particularly miserable night, a worthy endeavour. It, along with atmospheric songs on an ambitious scale, more than compensated for the soaking received coming to and from the venue.
Their music has the power to transfix an audience and tonight for the most part it did just that. Members of the seven-piece scrabbled around the cramped stage switching instruments, adding percussion, samples, trumpet and much more besides to give their sprawling arrangements a deeply textured sound.
Comparisons to fellow Scandinavians Múm are inevitable but with their more orchestral approach and the odd bout of Arcade Fire drum-beating, they offered something quite different. Lifted from acclaimed second album Parades, Mirador and fan favourite Frida Found A Friend sat well alongside new tracks The Soft Beating and I Was Playing Drums but there’s little doubt most will remember tonight for how the gig ended – the band making their way through the crowd to the sound desk while delivering the solemn yet rousing Chapter Six.

Therapy? @ Tut’s 28-10-09

November 9, 2009

THERAPY?

King Tut’s, Glasgow, October 28 * *

Before this tour you’d have been forgiven for forgetting about the very existence of Irish trio Therapy, after all it’s fifteen years since their most successful album Troublegum reached the top 5. Since then the band has recorded a further eight studio albums with minimal fuss and limited press interest, the most recent of which, Crooked Timber, appeared earlier this year.

Whether they could turn back the clock to their mid 90s heyday was the question. The simple answer was ‘no’. Even if you discount the consistently poor sound it was hard not to feel somewhat underwhelmed by this marathon performance. A combination of playing twenty-five songs and saving the hits until the end made it an at times arduous experience, especially given the repetitive nature of much of the set. The biggest failing however came courtesy of singer/guitarist Andy Cairns and his notably limp vocals.

Maybe if he’d spent more time attacking his lyrics rather than dedicating songs and pogo-ing like a twelve-year old it would have been a different story. Aggression was key to Cairns’ delivery when the band was at its peak but tonight, the second show of a two-date Tut’s stint where neither night sold out, it was a far from commanding display and one which only came to life during the encore.

Isis @ Stereo 25-10-09

November 9, 2009

ISIS
Stereo, Glasgow, October 25 * * * *

Californian post-metal outfit Isis scored their biggest success to date earlier this year with the release of fifth album Wavering Radiant. The five-piece cracked the Billboard top 100 without airplay or mainstream support – no mean feat given the niche nature of this type of music.
Their most accessible offering thus far, you can just about understand why the band is calling this their “pop album”. Still hardly mainstream-friendly, it marks another evolutionary step in a critically lauded career.
Heads certainly bobbed in unison throughout as the sold-out crowd soaked up the intensity radiating from the stage. From crushing opener Hall Of The Dead to sprawling epic Altered Course, the quintet was locked in their own world.
However if they’d been aware of the inconsistent sound we in the audience had to suffer they might have been less focused. Heavy bass buried Aaron Turner’s albeit sporadic vocals while an overall murkiness on Dulcinea and Backlit lessened their potency.
At the epicenter of proceedings, Aaron Turner was a formidable presence. The front man of few words, both lyrically and in terms of chat, was content to let the music rather than the delivery do the talking. A risky decision, but one that paid off thanks to the compelling nature of the much of tonight’s set.