THE MAGIC NUMBERS
Oran Mor, Glasgow, December 9 * * *

In the fickle world of music you’d be forgiven for forgetting all about The Magic Numbers, after all it’s just over three years since their last album hit the shelves. It was a different story when the quartet’s eponymous debut became the soundtrack to the summer of 2005, but mixed reviews for its follow-up seemed to take their toll.
Returning to the live scene with a tour of the country’s more intimate venues, the band used tonight’s appearance at Oran Mor to try out material from their as yet unnamed third studio offering.
Due out in March, on the basis of this display it’s hard to see the four-piece recreating the success they enjoyed early on in their career, as save for Once I Had, the new songs failed to make much of an impact.
Lucky then that tracks like The Mule, Forever Lost and Love’s A Game haven’t lost any of their sun-kissed appeal. Glorious harmonies, joyful melodies and seemingly endless reserves of energy ensured the sold-out crowd wasn’t disappointed.
Mornings 11 should have brought proceedings to a triumphant end but by tacking on two far from magic final numbers, what had been by and large an enjoyable set was rounded off with a whimper rather than a bang.

Mr Kil @ Oran Mor 27-11-09

December 18, 2009

MR KIL
Oran Mor, Glasgow, November 27 * * *

Fresh from a stint supporting The Proclaimers on their Scottish tour, Glasgow outfit Mr. Kil appeared at Oran Mor tonight to promote debut EP The Homespun Tales. Judging by the number of punters who raised their hands when asked if they saw the band at the SECC, playing on the same bill as the twins has, to a certain extent, paid off.
You could hear why the quartet’s music would appeal from the start. The immediacy of the melodies and abundance of hooks made openers Boat Song, Gin & Sin and She Cries Wolf instant crowd pleasers while the dark, ominous Turn The Screw was easily their best offering.
However with more time to fill, and despite singer Joe Gallacher’s confident candor, much of what followed came and went in unspectacular fashion. Fires proved uneventful while, save for its dying refrains, Nightmare For The Children threatened much without truly delivering.
If levels of crowd chatter are anything to go by, then the rather plodding Bloom was something of a low-point but with final number Where Your Voice Leads Me giving Gallacher more scope to work the crowd, Mr. Kil’s burgeoning fan-base were ultimately sent home happy.

THE SOUNDS
Oran Mor, Glasgow, November 22 * *

Swedish electro pop-rockers The Sounds have never hidden their passion for the States; after all they did name their debut album Living in America, but on the evidence of tonight’s performance that passion has become something of an obsession.
The combination of the kind of highly-polished, homogenized music favoured by both American producers, and more importantly American consumers, and singer Maja Ivarsson’s constant clichéd displays of showmanship made much of the Swedes’ set feel forced, at times cartoon-ish and ultimately disposable.
You couldn’t fault the band’s energy levels while Ivarsson’s delivery – part Debbie Harry, Madonna and Pink in style – at least ensured the crowd was vociferously on her side. It even occasionally managed to divert attention from what were by and large generic, middle-of-the-road songs.
The few tracks that did stand out, did so primarily for the wrong reasons. Insipid ballad Midnight Sun proved truly cringe-worthy, especially when without a hint of irony Ivarsson asked the crowd to raise their lighters in the air, while fellow Scandinavians Aqua sprang to mind during Hurt You.
However it didn’t matter to a crowd only too eager to indulge Ivarsson’s requests for more adulation. She worked them into a near frenzy on Painted By Numbers, the one song that managed to distinguish itself in an otherwise unremarkable set.

THE NIGHT MARCHERS
Captains Rest, Glasgow, November 17 * * * *

Two acts, one set and no change-over made tonight’s performance by Alabama rockabilly roller Dan Sartain and San Diego four-piece The Night Marchers an entirely seamless and ultimately unique experience.
Solo for a handful of songs, members of The Night Marchers joined Sartain one by one until climactic garage rocker P.C.B ’98 signaled the hand-over. From then on it was all about one man, former Rocket from the Crypt singer/guitarist John Reis.
Looking and sounding like a harder-living, harder-rocking Bruce Springsteen, Reis proved a charismatic force throughout. His enthusiasm and showmanship quickly galvanized the crowd and even made you forgive the odd moment when it all went a bit Status Quo.
Belting out songs with near blood-vessel-bursting passion he was particularly potent on Bad Bloods and Closed For Inventory, both of which zipped along at frenetic pace with the addition of Sartain’s more unhinged guitar.
There may have been a fair amount of repetition to the music but with hooks and honest rock n’ roll spirit in abundance, overall it was winning display.

LAURA MARLING
The Arches, Glasgow, November 15 * * *

One time member of Noah and the Whale, Laura Marling is one the leading lights among the indie-folk set. Last year the nineteen-year old songstress released her debut album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, and while not necessarily a commercial success it certainly won over the critics, earning the softly spoken singer a Mercury Music Prize nomination.
Fresh from a stint supporting Daniel Johnston and almost a year on from her last solo tour, Marling is once again out on her own, showcasing material from her recently recorded second album.
Tucked away at the back of the Arches venue, The Studio’s intimate surrounds proved the ideal setting for Marling’s ethereal music. The room even played its part, the regular muffled rumblings from the trains above adding to the eerie atmosphere on the darker new songs.
Self deprecating of her ‘banter’ and stage presence, there was a real sense of honesty to both the music and performance. However it wasn’t always enough to make this a fully captivating display. Too often the spell she cast was broken by the need to change guitar and tune up while a handful of relatively average songs somewhat diluted proceedings.
Still there was much to enjoy, not least her Joni Mitchell-isms on Rambling Man which along with final track Alas I Cannot Swim, and the bulk of new material aired, helped make it a successful and well-received visit to Glasgow.

The Hussys @ Sleazys 14-11-09

December 18, 2009

THE HUSSYS
Nice n Sleazy, Glasgow, November 14 *

This was not a good gig. Not musically, in terms of delivery, crowd reaction or atmosphere. It was a show where original ideas were thin on the ground and personality seemed to evade both the music and the band. Sporadically enjoyable for all the wrong reasons, it was a night when a new sub sub genre was born. It’s name, cruise-ship pop-rock.
It became clear early on that style rather than substance was going to win out – if only The Hussys spent as much time on songwriting as singer Fili spent on her elaborately elevated hair.
Mindless melodies, repetitive lyrics and a tendency to ‘borrow’ from other bands – The Police’s Roxanne on Rock Steady and glaringly The Coral’s Dreaming Of You on Tiger – made taking them entirely seriously difficult.
If Fili and sidekick guitarist James McColl had shown the slightest trace of presence or passion it might have helped generate some much-needed atmosphere, but instead the meagre crowd remained noticeably distant from the stage and by and large impassive.
With the words ‘rock steady’ (repeated what seemed like a thousand times) still ringing in our ears the band trooped off stage only to return for an encore that tellingly no one requested – a Noisettes cover ending a set easily summed up in one word: Butlins.

FIONN REGAN
Captains Rest, Glasgow, November 9 * * * *

Parting company with his previous record label on artistic grounds allowed Irishman Fionn Regan the freedom to record the second album he wanted. Left to his own devices and armed with a wealth of material accrued from his two-year stint on the road, the end result was quickly snapped up by Heavenly Recordings.
Whether it can match the critical success of Mercury-nominated debut The End Of History will become clearer early next year when Shadow Of An Empire hits the shelves. On tonight’s showing there’s every chance he’ll repeat the trick.
Often when a set is predominantly made up of new material you can sense the audience’s eagerness for more familiar strains, but tonight the sold-out crowd didn’t seem at all fazed. Little wonder given the immediacy of songs like Protection Racket and Genocide Matinee.
The bar was set high from the start with openers House Detective and Coat Hook both showing Regan’s more robust leanings while Little Nancy flowed hypnotically thanks to his well-honed band’s ethereal playing.
Of course there was still space on the set list for crowd pleasers like Underwood Typewriter and Put A Penny In The Slot, both of which drew the expected response from a crowd only too happy to lend their vocal ‘talents’ to proceedings.