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The Indie Cred November Gig Run-Down

Right, I know we’ve gone quiet here over the last month. You’ll have to excuse us a bit. Our relatives over the pond have had some rather distressing things going on so we’ve been away for a bit and focused on other stuff since we returned. We have, however, been to a few really great gigs recently which have proved far more than a welcome distraction from things.

We enjoyed Fleet Foxes at the Academy 2 on November 9th, although we were rather jetlagged so we stood right at the back and heard more than we saw. The harmonies sounded fabulous as always. We were back down at Club Academy on the 18th to see Low play their Christmas gig. The first half of the set was mesmerising and the second half – all Christmas carols – was surprisingly good. They were accompanied by the opening band (who were pretty good too) and it was quite a celebration – especially for a Low gig.

For a complete change of pace we went to see Fucked Up at the Roadhouse and their ear-splitting hardcore and jovial attitude was intense and highly enjoyable. They’re so much more than just a noisy hardore band. Their opening act was great as well, although I didn’t catch their name – they sounded like all the best bits of Guided By Voices, Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du and the Pixies.

Tuesday the 24th of November was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds night down at the Apollo. Nick Cave is many things but boring is never one of them. The band were on fine form and delivered an angry, noisy set with, well, many of my favourites. I enjoy “God is in the House” more every time I see it live and “Red Right Hand” and “Stagger Lee” were spectacular as well. “I Call Upon the Author” was a welcome new addition, even if he did truncate it a bit. Opener Joe Gideon and the Shark were quite a revelation. Forget the fact that they had some great Fall-inspired tunes, the Shark was great to watch on stage.

We followed up Nick Cave with Frightened Rabbit at Moho Live. The less said about this one the better. I was exhausted and falling asleep on my feet as they didn’t go on stage til midnight and the sound was awful. Pity because they’re a great band and I’m pretty sure that The Midnight Organ Fight will be in The Ledge’s top 10 albums of 2008, I haven’t worked mine out yet – it could make that list too.

Sunday, November 30th saw us down at the Manchester Evening News Arena for Leonard Cohen. While it wasn’t as good a gig as the one we saw at The Opera House over the summer, it was still fabulous and he’s finally stopped introducing the band every 3 minutes. “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “So Long Marianne” and “Tower of Song” were divine and listening to him perform “Hallelujah” with so much heart makes me wonder how Simon Cowell dare defile it by forcing his new pop muppet to cover it in time for Christmas.

On 4th December we were back at the Roadhouse for A Place to Bury Strangers, Ten Kens and Lowline. We were only really familiar with Ten Kens. Lowline were worse than expected sounding at times like Oasis covering Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and at other times like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club covering Oasis. Mostly they were non-descript and extremely boring. Ten Kens have put out a great album recently and I was really looking forward to them so I was bitterly disappointed to find that the muddy, murky sound in the Roadhouse really ruined any chance we had of enjoying their performance. They were trying hard in front of a crowd that were disinterested (except for one guy punching the air in the front row – you know who you are and you know we know who you are, even if you didn’t notice us on the night and we were being anti-social). They have what can only be described as a very full sound, there’s few gaps, and the distortion caused by the volume being too high and the mix being all wrong meant it just sounded a mess and it was hard to tell which song was which. We were exhausted and grumpy and left, not bothering to watch A Place to Bury Strangers.

Saturday 6th December was the welcome return of The Wedding Present who always deliver a good show. I quite like their newest album, although The Ledge is underwhelmed by it, but we both had fun jumping about to some classics and to some new tracks. Plus they finally did a Cinerama song off their first album – which is my favourite Cinerama album. The opening band, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were charming enough that we bought their album. On the night they sounded like the perfect accompaniment to The Wedding Present’s jangly guitars. On record they’re more like Belle & Sebastian gone C86. Either way is not a bad way to be.

This week, on 10th December we’ve been over to the Academy 1 to see The Hold Steady, who were on fine form yet again with a brilliant set – far better than the gig they did at the Academy 2 earlier in the year, in fact. Pity the ever-growing crowd is also growing ever less agreeable – 2 days later and I still have bruised ribs from the couple who trampled and physically removed a 7 stone girl from beside me and tried to do the same to me. However, the band were faultless and new tracks such as “One for the Cutters” and “Magazines” slot in well next to old classics like “Positive Jam” and “Charlemagne in Sweatpants.”

Then last night , 11th December, I drove over the Pennines to see James at the Leeds Academy (formerly the Town & Country) deliver a rather unusual but highly enjoyable set. It was great to hear “Stutter” dragged out from the depths of the back catalogue and I’m still surprised by how much I love their new material.

So, that’s us mostly caught up. We will be producing some top 10 lists before the end of the month and hopefully back to business as usual sometime in January. The Ledge might even force himself to review the Stereolab gig he’s going to see next week. Maybe.

CD Review: Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (FatCat)

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ FightThis record has barely been off my CD player / out of my car / off my MediaMonkey playlist for the past three weeks. I’ve had nights where the chorus of “The Modern Leper” or the first verse of “My Backwards Walk” has done endless somersaults through my brain, refusing to let me sleep. This album is so good it could seriously damage your health. Or at least leave you feeling a bit drowsy in the morning.

Frightened Rabbit have come on in leaps and bounds since their excellent Sings The Greys debut. While that record was a little rough around the edges and lacked focus, what with it being a fleshed out mini-album, The Midnight Organ Fight is a fully-formed indie classic-in-waiting, unerring in its consistency over its fourteen track length. The aforementioned “The Modern Leper” kicks things off in blistering style with an epic chorus that would fill the heart with glee were it not an outlet for Scott Hutchison’s monumental self-loathing. It could well be the best track on the album but this is one of those albums where the best track changes from day to day, listen to listen. “Fast Blood”, with its gorgeous Sonic Youthesque guitar riffs, and “Good Arms vs Bad Arms”, with its beautiful, keening chorus, are regular contenders, as is “My Backwards Walk”, which builds and builds to a surprising conclusion when the drum machine bursts in out of nowhere. There are three minute-long tracks – an instrumental, a reprise of another song and a curious album closer that sounds like a work-in-progress – and they all work well as stop gaps, allowing us just enough time to digest the greatness of the previous few tracks before readying us for what is to come.

There’s quite an obvious folk influence over much of the album, with shades of bluegrass on the jaunty “Old Old Fashioned” and a debt owed to Will Oldham on the excellent “Poke”. Catchy choruses abound, some of which could be described as positively anthemic, though Hutchison’s lyrics keep the songs grounded in the grim reality of his personal life: the meaningless drunken sex, the self-loathing, the “other man” he wants to kill, the not being in a relationship, the being in a relationship you want out of. The Scots are very good at this sort of thing and he is no exception. There’s even a note of optimism late on in “Floating In The Forth” when, after another break-up, he finds the strength to “save suicide for another year”. It’s another superb song at the end of an album that will surely mark 2008 out to be the Year of the Rabbit.

Frightened Rabbit – The Modern Leper

Frightened Rabbit – My Backwards Walk

Posted by The Ledge on 16th April 2008 at 12:45 am | comments (3)
File under CD Reviews,frightened rabbit,mp3,Reviews,the midnight organ fight.

Gig Review: Frightened Rabbit @ The Night & Day Café, Manchester, 5th April 2008

Having moaned about them cancelling their support slot at the Night & Day with MGMT last month, it was great to see Frightened Rabbit remedy the situation with a headline appearance at the same venue on Saturday night. Not that it felt much like they were the headline act thanks to local band The Bottomfeeders, who brought a healthy contingent of friends and family to watch their supporting set, most of whom sloped off home long before Frightened Rabbit took to the stage, leaving a disappointingly small number of punters to cheer them on.

The Bottomfeeders @ The Night & Day CafeFortunately, The Bottomfeeders were highly entertaining and good enough to suggest that perhaps some of their gathered throng were actual fans, rather than mums, dads and colleagues. There was something quite theatrical about them, with a line-up that included a (faux?) Japanese bass player who also played the musical saw, a cellist, a trombone player in dungarees and a lead singer in a spangly dress who was somewhere in between Courtney Love and Beth Ditto – if you could ignore the thick manc accent. With such an array of instruments at their disposal, and the lead singer’s excellent vocals, the songs straddled a wide range of musical styles, occasionally defying categorisation, occasionally sounding like direct rip-offs (“Loretta” could have been lifted straight off PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love). There was also a rich vein of wacky humour running through much of the material with some songs straying dangerously close to novelty territory. I’m not sure if they’d stand up to repeated listens but they were great fun, nonetheless.

Frightened Rabbit @ The Night & Day CafeMost of their fans were daft enough to leave immediately after their set, or retire to the bar to chat loudly, leaving a handful of us to bask in the glory of the really, rather brilliant Frightened Rabbit. They’ve bulked up to a four piece since I last saw them, but rather than employ a bass player they’ve opted for another guitarist, which is great news as the sight and sound of three Telecasters churning away at the front of the stage while scary drummer Grant Hutchison beats the shit out of his drums at the back was terrific. The early part of the set was weighted towards songs off the new album, The Midnight Organ Fight, which has hardly been out of my CD player for the past two weeks. The likes of “The Modern Leper”, which opened proceedings, and album highlight “Fast Blood” were played with a searing intensity that sent shivers down the spine. Unperturbed the disappointing turnout, singer Scott Hutchison was really giving it everything, obviously excited about playing the new material but also making sure that the Sing The Greys stuff sounded just as fresh. “Be Less Rude” positively bounced along while “Go Go Girls”, with its irresistible “Shocker In Gloomtown” riff, sounded like the album version with an electric cattle prod rammed up its arse.

They ended with “The Greys” segueing effortlessly into “Square 9” to create a sweaty eight minute epic, and were gone after a brief set of ten songs or so, to a paltry smattering of applause. I see this gig as a mere taster of what’s to come from Frightened Rabbit in 2008. When the album comes out and word gets around they’ll easily be selling out venues of this size by the Autumn. Can’t wait.

The setlist, if I recall, went something like this:

The Modern Leper
I Feel Better
Be Less Rude
Fast Blood
Old Old Fashioned
Heads Roll Off
Music Now
Go Go Girls
The Greys
Square 9

Frightened Rabbit – Heads Roll Off

Frightened Rabbit – Be Less Rude

Posted by The Ledge on 10th April 2008 at 10:52 pm | comments (6)
File under frightened rabbit,Gig Reviews,mp3,night & day,Reviews,the bottomfeeders.

Gig Review: MGMT @ The Night & Day Café, Manchester, 1st March 2008

It would have been nice to end a great week of gigs on a high, but it wasn’t to be. We bought tickets to see MGMT at the Night & Day as soon as they came out on the understanding that the brilliant Scottish trio Frightened Rabbit would be supporting. A few days before the gig Frightened Rabbit disappeared from the listing on the Night & Day’s website and we were left umm-ing and aah-ing as to whether we should bother to go at all. The weather was shit for a start: it was pissing down and freezing cold, but we eventually made a break for the bus stop and arrived in town with enough time to grab a margarita at Rodeo in the Northern Quarter. We hadn’t been to Rodeo for a good few months but in that time they seem to have completely forgotten how to make a decent margarita, which, for a bar that specialises in margaritas, is worrying. No wonder there weren’t many people in there at 9:00pm on a Saturday night.

Later, at the Night & Day, lone support band, Virgin Passages, singularly failed to capture the imagination of a packed audience, and it was no wonder with them being a quiet six-piece experimental folk combo from London supporting some psychedelic electro popsters from Brooklyn. We were standing close to the stage but could barely hear them over the collective indifference of the vast majority of the crowd, though what we did hear sounded ok.

MGMT didn’t sound much like the psychedelic electro popsters we were expecting. They sounded pretty dull, to be honest, more conventional indie rock than anything, with guitars being the dominant instrument in their live sound rather than the keyboards and sequencers that seem to dominate their records. “Time To Pretend” had none of the sparkle of its recorded version, with its signature synth riff lost somewhere in the poor sound mix. The 70s disco of “Electric Feel” fared a little better but by then the night had defeated us. JustHipper was not enjoying it at all and was convinced that every song sounded exactly like The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”; obviously the effects of a bad margarita. We left after about six songs. At least the rain had stopped by then.

MGMT – Time To Pretend

What we missed:

Frightened Rabbit – The Modern Leper (from the forthcoming album Midnight Organ Fight)

Posted by The Ledge on 8th March 2008 at 12:45 am | comments (12)
File under frightened rabbit,Gig Reviews,mgmt,mp3,Reviews,virgin passages.