Archive for the 'damn shames' Category

Gig Review: Islands @ Night & Day Café, Manchester, 20th February 2008

Islands @ The Night & Day Cafe, Manchester
When Islands played the Roadhouse over eighteen months ago, I was already looking forward to a new album after an excellent set comprised almost entirely of new songs. Of course, in the months since I totally forgot about it; almost forgot about the band altogether. Well, Arm’s Way will finally come out in May and, on the evidence of their gig at the Night & Day on Wednesday night, it’s going to be a belter.

The band were six strong this time round, one down on the Roadhouse gig, but they produced a huge sound with dual violins and dual guitars backed up by a strong, and unfussy, rhythm section. Again, the majority of the set was new, but that didn’t matter, such was the strength of the material. The opener, “Vertigo” (I think), had a strong americana flavour running through it, augmented by some lovely slide guitar, and ended with a thrilling instrumental climax, though it was impossible to discern exactly when the song ended and the next began. The band was like a mini pop orchestra covering all sorts of musical territory from country to twee to power pop to chamber pop; there was even a bit of bluegrass fiddle playing in there somewhere. New songs, like the glammy strut of “The Arm” and the rockabilly stylings of “Pieces Of You”, really showcased Nick Diamonds’ expansive pop vision and went down very well with the sizeable crowd. The new stuff certainly sounds stronger and more ambitious than the material from their Return To The Sea debut – which was prone to meander along, with whimsical, often wafer-thin melodies – though Diamonds cheekily insisted that the new album was “not for you, it’s for your kids.”

Islands @ The Night & Day Cafe, ManchesterThe highlight of the set was an oldie, however. “Where There’s A Will There’s A Whalebone” is the best song on Return To The Sea, thanks mainly to a deliciously skewed rap from Busdriver, but without the rap the band instead played their heart out in a dizzying mid-song crescendo. The sweet pop shuffle of “Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby” saw out the main set and they returned with yet another excellent newie (something about animals and zoos) before rounding things off nicely with the epic “Swans (Life After Death)”.

So, a triumphant night for Islands, but earlier on Edinburgh’s Damn Shames put in perhaps the worst performance by a support band that I’ve seen in quite a while. For a start, the sound was absolutely shocking, especially considering the brilliant mix that Islands got later in the evening. The guitars were lifeless, the bass woolly, and their drum machine was programmed with some of the dullest beats known to man and could barely be heard above the ugly sonic stew. To add to this, the band were just trying too hard, with their spastic dancing, their over-exuberant guitar playing and their horrible yelped vocals seemingly trying to pull a smokescreen over the weakness of the songs. You could catch them occasionally looking hopefully into the audience for some kind of validation; but they won’t have got any, just a brief, polite smattering of applause after each song. They calmed things down as the set progressed and improved a little but the damage had already been done. Having said this, I’ve listened to a couple of their songs on their MySpace page since and they don’t sound too bad. Maybe with a decent sound mix and a focus on playing the songs better, rather than jumping around the stage like they’ve got a small, feral animal down their trousers, they might yet be worthy of support slots such as this.

Islands – Where There’s A Will There’s A Whalebone

Islands – The Arm

Posted by The Ledge on 22nd February 2008 at 7:14 pm | comments (6)
File under damn shames,Gig Reviews,islands,mp3,Reviews.