It’s reassuring that despite Scotland’s love of lad-rock, new self-proclaimed kings of the genre Viva Brother have failed to take the country by storm despite writing what singer/guitarist Lee Newell has described as “the best songs of the last 20 years.”

Truth be told, like their last visit to Glasgow, tonight the five-piece did little to suggest their songs are destined to receive the ultimate lad-rock accolade and make the move from venue to football ground anytime soon.

The best that could be said of the Slough outfit’s set was that final number Darling Buds Of May has a memorable hook, however whether you’ll want to remember it is another matter.

Watch the video for Viva Brother’s ‘Darling Buds of May 

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Returning home from a successful UK jaunt promoting second album Spitting Daggers, Glasgow-based trio Sparrow and the Workshop once again showed why they’re regarded as one of the city’s best bands with another stellar display.

Sitting comfortably alongside established favourites like Devil’s Song and I Will Break You, new songs Against the Grain and Snakes in the Grass with their aggressive vocals displayed plenty of the by-now-familiar SATW urgency. The latter proved the highlight of what was another compelling showing, thanks in no small part to its ragged melody and infectious hook.

Sparrow and the Workshop’s ‘Snakes in the Grass’

It’s not often a band write a song during a sound-check then debut it hours later. Well with opener Glasgow 90 that’s exactly what Atlanta-based quartet Deerhunter did tonight, and in so doing ensured their 90-minute set got off to the best possible start. Simpler than what was to come but no less potent, it was a real signal of intent.

What did follow was nothing short of mesmerising at times especially on the epic Desire Lines and Never Stops. Both laden with atmosphere and punctuated by ragged bursts of heavily-distorted guitar, the former provoked the kind of sustained applause few bands achieve but all aspire to.

Deerhunter’s ‘Memory Boy’ Live on Letterman

If music is the food of love, and let’s say we know this for a fact, then the Red Hot Chilli Pipers are a deep-fried Mars Bar – like the infamous Scottish dish, the Chilli Pipers are a novelty that’s hard to stomach.

At times surreal, constantly laughable, tonight’s two-hour show had to be seen to be disbelieved. From the black fashion kilts to the awkward choreography, the bouts of tartan techno to the choice of songs, no element of tonight’s arduous ordeal did anything to further the cause of Scottish music.

In their matching outfits and with their choreographed moves, which consisted primarily of pointing and swaying, the core pipers often looked like they were auditioning for a part in a Scottish version of the Full Monty.

Safe covers like Clocks, Chasing Cars, Everybody Dance Now and a medley of Rocking All Over The World and Eye Of The Tiger didn’t help matters either. Neither did the difficulty of keeping a strangled cat in tune or their pantomime delivery which, when combined with the music, made tonight feel like the wedding from hell.

OK Go @ ABC2 18-01-10

January 22, 2010

OK GO
ABC2, Glasgow, January 18 * * *

Originally billed to play the 1200 plus capacity ABC1, a general lack of interest for this show meant a major downgrading to the more intimate surrounds of the ABC2 was required. However even at a quarter of the size it was still far from packed.
It didn’t seem to faze the band however. Frontman Damian Kulash, suitably lubricated by a healthy supply of whiskey, revelled in the chance to get hands-on with an easily accessible and enthusiastic crowd. Neither did it mean a scaling down of their stage show.
Bursts of red and yellow ticker-tape often drew more cheers than the pop-rock songs they were designed to augment, while the crowd was at its most attentive not when Kulash was boring us with dreary ballad Last Leaf but when he was cracking wise between tracks.
And therein lay the problem. The music very quickly became secondary, a distraction before the next round of banter. Entertaining as a spectacle yes but by the end it was OK, just go.

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.