Archive for October, 2006

The Icicle Works, Manchester Academy 2, 21st October 2006

Another week, another comeback. The Icicle Works return after 16 years away to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their forming and to promote the re-issue of their debut eponymous album. Except that this is no reformation: bass player Chris Layhe and drummer Chris Sharrock are nowhere to be seen on stage and I wonder if they were invited anyway (Sharrock apparently plays drums for Robbie Williams these days so I doubt he’d need the work). Instead we get the Works’ lead singer and songwriter Ian McNabb and his backing band, which includes Dodgy drummer Matthew Priest (that’s Dodgy with a capital ‘D’), playing a two hour set of songs from The Icicle Works’ five albums to a full hall of punters old enough to remember them and who have paid almost 20 quid for the pleasure. And yes, I was one of them. I’d seen the Works a few times back in the day, the last time being, I think, in this same venue, and they were a great live band. They also released three great albums: the debut and it’s two successors, the classic Small Price Of A Bicycle and If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song. Their fourth album Blind was a dreadful hotchpotch of styles ranging from gospel to blues to heavy rock that had none of the glorious soaring choruses that were a trademark of the first three albums. I jumped ship at this point and have never heard their final effort Permanent Damage.

But enough of the history. They started the evening with the brilliant non-album single “When It All Comes Down”, released when the band were at their peak. And it sounded fantastic. Hundreds of bald forty-somethings sang gleefully along and when they got to the chorus McNabb stepped away from his mike and stood, hand cupping ear, at the front of the stage while the audience continued to sing. Second chorus, same thing. Eventually, towards then end of the song, he sang the chorus. This, unfortunately, set the tone for the rest of the evening. Now, singing along at a gig is all well and good, and for this gig in particular it should have been mandatory given the epic, anthemic nature of many of the tunes. However, there’s a big difference between singing along to a song and singing the song while the vocalist takes a fag break and bathes in the audience’s sycophantic glow. The former is an enjoyable part of many a gig, The Lemonheads gig the week before, for example. The letter should only be employed during an encore of a band’s biggest hit and not during almost every song of a two hour set. That’s called karaoke. As one disgruntled punter pointed out to McNabb early on, “you haven’t bought a ticket to see us”.

It wasn’t all bad, in fact, some of it was quite brilliant. “Up Here In The North Of England” sounded better than I remember it ever being, while most of the material from the debut album, especially “Out Of Season” and “Factory In The Desert”, sounded fresh and new thanks to the excellent backing band. “Evangeline” was magical until the elongated singalong of the final chorus stretched patience to the limit as McNabb lit up another fag and massaged his ego. “Why didn’t you buy my fucking solo albums?” he asked as the crowd did his work for him.

The inclusion in the set of almost as many numbers from Blind than from Small Price Of A Bicycle and Defeat Your Enemy put together was another bugbear although Blind rocker “Shit Creek” was a welcome diversion from the rather more ponderous likes of “Little Girl Lost” and “Starry Blue Eyed Wonder”. The majority of the crowd seemed perfectly happy with how things were going, however, even with the karaoke element which reached its nadir at the end of the gig. First there was “Understanding Jane” which McNabb barely sang a word of. Then came the encores which were as I had expected them to be all along: the incredible, anthemic “Hollow Horse”, their best song in my eyes; the brilliant “Love Is A Wonderful Colour”, their one and only hit, and the equally great “Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)”. “Hollow Horse” began and once again was carried along by a choir of gruff, lairy voices, McNabb happy to contribute the odd line. When the same thing happened on “Love Is A Wonderful Colour” I’d had enough. I don’t remember the last time I walked out of a gig by a band I like but I walked out of this one.

Posted by The Ledge on 30th October 2006 at 7:33 pm | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Welcome to the New Look Indie Cred!

Hello and welcome to The Ledge’s new design for the Indie Credential. With the new design, we’ve included a list of our upcoming gigs so if we don’t review them within a couple of days you can mither us about it. The next step is to make this a proper MP3 blog to go along with all the usual gig reviews. We’re also going to be delving into our vinyl & cassette archives as we write about those old classics and rarities. We will also, hopefully, be featuring more actual CD reviews and commentary as well as some new writers, or, writer who hasn’t said much yet.

So, if anyone has any requests or suggestions, now is the time folks. And look out for the first MP3 post in the next few days when The Ledge reviews a song I love and he hates, and I review a song he loves and I hate. That should make for a happy home.

Posted by JustHipper on 27th October 2006 at 10:09 pm | comments (5)
File under News.

Gig Review: The Lemonheads, Manchester Academy 2, 16th October 2006

Another year, another comeback from one of my favourite bands of the late 80s / early 90s. After the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr it’s the turn of The Lemonheads to return to the scene to remind us exactly how good they once were. With Evan Dando’s well-documented drugs problems consigned to history and an impressive new self-titled album on the racks it was no surprise to see him looking healthy and happy, the same mop of blond hair framing his ever youthful features. I spent the first few songs mesmerised by the Dando fringe: where were his eyes? The fringe was cut to just below eye level and he either had his eyes closed or was gazing at his shoes while playing the likes of “The Great Big No”, “Bit Part” and the wonderful “Ride With Me”. It was difficult to tell if he was enjoying himself at all. It didn’t take long for him to warm to the enthusiasm of the crowd though and a few songs in the eyes began to open and the fringe began to bounce. The gig just got better and better as it went along, gaining a fierce momentum as classic after classic was dispensed to an increasingly ecstatic crowd. Even the inclusion of songs from the new album didn’t dampen the crowd’s ardour with “Black Gown” and the single “Become The Enemy” going down particularly well.

The two other members of the touring band, Devon Ashley on drums and Vess Ruhtenberg on bass, did a fine job in providing a rough and ready backing to Dando’s wonderfully laid-back guitar and vocals. They tore through the set at a relentless pace; chat between songs was almost non-existent. Most of the seminal It’s A Shame About Ray was played and the crowd sang along throughout, especially during the acoustic part of the set where Dando was left alone on stage. With the 11 O’clock curfew approaching I was expecting him to play just a couple of tracks before being rejoined by the other two but he rattled through about ten songs including a brilliant “Outdoor Type” and a truncated “Into Your Arms”, but no “Frank Mills”, unfortunately. When he was finished he had to cajole his band members back onto the stage to round off the evening with the stellar “My Drug Buddy” and a final encore of “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” breaking the usually strict curfew by a good ten minutes to cap a comeback that was better than I’d dared hope.

Posted by The Ledge on 27th October 2006 at 9:50 pm | comments (49)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

The Big Indie Credential Autumn Clear-Out

Well you may have noticed, all three of you, that things have been a little slow on the Indie Credential front of late. Our last post was over a month ago and the last gig we reviewed took place over two months ago (if you don’t count JustHipper’s Hidden Cameras review that she put up earlier today). We’ve been to plenty of gigs since Voxtrot but we admit we took our eye off the ball somewhat. That’s all about to change, hopefully, with a new site design, the addition of downloadable mp3s and a new resolution to get gig reviews up within three days of the gig. Hmmm, we’ll see….

In the meantime, and for our own archiving purposes if nothing else, here’s a brief round-up of the gigs we failed to blog.

My Morning Jacket at Manchester Academy 2Way back on August 23rd we went to see My Morning Jacket at Manchester Academy 2 and they were utterly magnificent. It had been a long wait to see them again after they canceled their 2005 UK tour when Jim James was recovering from a bout of pneumonia. James and his extraordinary voice were in rude health at the Academy 2 and the band more than made up for their long absence with a blistering set that took in almost all of their excellent Z album as well as a few classics like the twin guitar rampage of “One Big Holiday”, the spine-tingling loveliness of “The Way That He Sings” and majestic closer “Mahgeetah”. New guitarist Carl Broemel is a more than welcome addition to the MMJ ranks and new keyboard player Bo Koster is no slouch either. The Z material sounded stunning and with the amps turned up to 11 the band made the recorded versions sound positively twee.

A couple of days later we caught The Aliens at the Night & Day and they were awful; a shambolic mess of styles, none of them any good. 70s cock rock rubbed shoulders with dire attempts to replicate the Beta Band’s electro-folk excellence and there was even a misguided stab at Nick Cave style piano balladry. There were interminable gaps between songs as equipment broke down, guitars were tuned up, band members pissed about, and the crowd, sizeable and enthusiastic though it was, didn’t help matters by being full of dicks, like the drunk guy who pushed his way to the front and pissed off just about everyone in his vicinity (JustHipper mentions this here); or the guy in front of me who was so obsessed with people chatting during the songs (even though the level of chatter wasn’t too bad) that he spent most of the gig looking over his shoulder, scowling at and shushing people, which ended in a big argument with the guy behind me who continued to wind him up throughout the show, much to my amusement. Three members of The Aliens used to be in The Beta Band. It is now fairly obvious to us where the talent in that band lay. The night wasn’t a total loss as earlier we had enjoyed Canadians Born Ruffians‘ angular indie pop and the excellent Leeds band iLiKETRAiNS who, if you like the idea of a post-rock Tindersticks, then you’ll love.

Broken Social Scene at Liverpool Academy 2Two Liverpool gigs in two nights followed. We were surprised to find that Broken Social Scene were playing the tiny Academy 2 on 30th August when we were expecting them to be on in the main hall. They just about managed to fit on stage and put in yet another excellent performance with Lisa Lobsinger again on female vocal duties as she was at their amazing Manchester Academy 2 gig back in February. Though this gig wasn’t quite up to the same standards due mainly to the sound limitations of the venue it was still a real pleasure to see the band so up close and personal.

The night after we were at the Korova Bar in Liverpool to see Tapes ‘n Tapes. The Korova is tiny and was packed out, hot and sticky. It was another great gig however with geeky electro indie popsters To My Boy opening proceedings followed by Liverpool’s own sleazy art rockers Hot Club De Paris who impressed us very much with their superb close harmonies and tawdry tales of inner city debauchery. Tapes were on fine form, much better than when we’d seen them last supporting You Say Party! We Say Die! at the Music Box. It helped that they got to play a full set this time including a couple of promising newies. They certainly seem to have benefited from their incessant touring and seemed tighter and more energised than at the Music Box. On this showing it was easy to see why all the US bloggers were getting themselves in a tizzy over this band at the start of the year.

Swedish popsters Love Is All were next. They played the Roadhouse on September 16th. JustHipper had bought their album a few weeks before but I hadn’t got round to listening to it. I listened to nothing else for the next week after an exhilarating performance; their spiky pop punk and the screechy vocals of singer Josephine Olausson bringing to mind defunct Scottish oddballs Life Without Buildings.

Finally, I went alone to see Mogwai at the Academy on 24th September, JustHipper not being too enamoured of the whole post rock thing. It must have been around 6 years since I last saw Mogwai and it didn’t take long for me to realise how much I’d missed them. It was a formidable performance, the dense, layered sound of their recordings brilliantly reproduced in live setting. The set spanned their whole career from early tracks like “Summer” and an incredible “Helicon 1” through to a new track from the Zidane soundtrack played in the encore. The highlights were the back-to-back renditions of “Hunted By A Freak” and “Ratts Of The Capital” with Barry Burns’ brilliant vocoder work bringing that extra dimension to the sound, and the closing euphoric rockfest of “We’re No Here”. What struck me most about the performance was the absence of any of their signature longer tracks such as “Like Herod” and “Mogwai Fear Satan”. This was very much for the better as it made for a much more varied set that I had previously been used to all those years ago.

Posted by The Ledge on 25th October 2006 at 9:51 pm | comments (12)
File under Random comment.

The Hidden Cameras, Manchester Night & Day, September 30, 2006

The Hidden Cameras @ The Night & Day, ManchesterNow I admit to coming late to the Hidden Cameras. I’d been reading great reviews of their CDs for a couple of years but it took Fopp marking down Mississauga Goddamn to £5 to get me to finally make the purchase. Now I feel a bit daft because this and their new record, Awoo are two of the best things I’ve heard this year. So needless to say I was pleased when they announced a gig in Manchester around the same time I had this revelation.

Now imagine my double delight to discover that My Latest Novel were opening the show. First spotted by us opening for Low back in April, they are a delight to behold with their strange concatenation of poppy, folky post-rock. They took a rather uninterested audience and won them over to the soothing and insistent sounds of violin-tinged beauty. I’d be lying if I told you a month later that I could remember every track they played, but they had me completely transfixed, as they did on the previous occasion. They manage to mesmerise with slightly repetitive, droning sounds but also to be utterly lightly melodic at the same time. They will be huge, or at least they should be.

As for the main event, it’s rare that both band and crowd are in the mood for the celebration delivered by The Hidden Cameras. With a band so large it looked impossible for them all to fit on the stage – 2 string players, 2 guitarists, 2 keyboardists and a drummer (did I miss someone out?), they managed, somehow. They positively romped through a set of new tracks and old classics with particular mention going to “Awoo”, “Death of a Tune”, “I Believe in the Good of Life” and “She’s Gone.” The enjoyment from the stage was so contagious it even had me dancing, in fact when I knocked into the guy behind me by accident he responded to my apology by kissing me on the cheek and shouting “Aren’t they amazing!” As it was one of the band’s birthday, the venue brought them a cake, which they shared with the audience before the spectacular encore rendition of “Lollipop,” as Joel Gibb muttered something about sugar. There was also a point during this encore when I counted something like 11 people on stage, including audience members banging tambourines and a couple of folk from My Latest Novel. This must be some sort of record for the Night & Day as their stage is about the smallest stage of any half-decent venue (the Roadhouse and Korova do not count as decent venues, sorry).
I was kind of expecting cynicism and indie detachment at this show and I’m not really sure why, but what I got was utterly unexpected and wholly enjoyable. Plus, for a change, the sound was even pretty good and we could even hear the vocals. It’s now time to buy that other Hidden Cameras album which is missing from our collection and get to know this band a whole lot better.

See The Ledge’s photos from this gig on Flickr.

Posted by JustHipper on 25th October 2006 at 3:13 pm | comments (10)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.