Gig Review: The Veils @ The Ruby Lounge, Manchester, 21/04/09

Prior to last Saturday, The Ledge hadn’t listened to The Veils at all, but something prompted him to put on Nux Vomica – which I’d told him he would like when I first played it – and he liked it enough to refer to them as his “new favourite band” when I got home on Monday after a weekend away.

As luck would have it, his sudden obsession with The Veils neatly corresponded to a visit by them to Manchester and he wanted to go see them play, despite the fact I had spent the 90 minutes prior to leaving for the gig in a kickboxing class (getting into the house with barely enough time to have a (very) quick wash and to change clothes). Obviously, I went with him, as Finn Andrews has an amazing voice and I can hardly refuse to watch a band clearly influenced by Nick Cave and whose second album (we’ve not heard the new one, Sun Gangs, yet) has moments that also sound like The Drones, another Antipodean band that fascinates me.

We missed both opening bands, had time for a brief chat with a co-worker of The Ledge’s, and then the band were on – to a tiny crowd. I am actually surprised at how few people turned out between the great reviews I’ve read, their cult potential and the obvious Nick Cave influence. It’s a shame really because they deserve to be playing to larger crowds – although the mournful, dark ballads suit a venue like The Ruby Lounge.

Although The Veils are a band, the show was all about Finn Andrews, and this is the band’s second incarnation – as he sacked the musicians who played with him on the first album. Owing to this, calls for “Lavinia”  and “The Leavers Dance,” off The Runaway Found, were refused. He not only swapped guitars between practically every song, he also treated us to some quieter moments on the piano. His soaring voice was done no favours by the sound system in the venue, but as we were close enough to see the sweat on his brow, I can’t doubt the sincerity and earnestness of the performance. What I was surprised about was him chatting between songs – I pictured a dark, introverted, difficult performer, yet he smiled, he kept thanking us and he looked like he was having fun. It is also surprising to find a singer so slight with such a powerful voice.

I’m not going to pretend I recognised even half the songs – even though I should as we’ve got the first 2 albums – but “Advice for Young Mothers to Be” stood out, as did “Not Yet,” introduced as a song about moving out of your parent’s house – surprisingly as I thought it was about coming out.  “Jesus for the Jugular” was as manic and intense as on the album, prompting a lot of guitar chicanery and rock star posing, and “Under the Folding Branches” was touching and beautiful.

The new tracks were not entirely distinguishable from older material, but as we’re still getting to know the older albums here, this was neither unwelcome or disappointing. I quite liked the final song of the night, “Scarecrow,” before which Andrews implored the crowd to be quiet for three minutes through the quiet number. I hadn’t noticed talking behind me – other than a very enthusiastic (and very tall) man to my left trying to tell his friends what he liked best about the band – but perhaps the band had.

I would very much like to get to know Nux Vomica better and to hear Sun Gangs and then see The Veils live again, because I think it would very much enhance the experience because on the evidence I think there’s quite a lot about these songs worth getting to know.

The Veils – Advice for Young Mothers To Be
The Veils – Lavinia

Posted by JustHipper on 23rd April 2009 at 7:00 pm | comments (12)
File under Gig Reviews.

CD Review – The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love (Rough Trade, 2009)

It’s fair to say that here at The Indie Credential, we like The Decemberists a littleok, a lot.

The Hazards Of Love

One of the things which appeals so very much is their penchant for storytelling, something that on The Crane Wife (and The Tain) they began to spread across song cycles – rather than just songs. So, when they announced that the new album, Hazards of Love, was going to be a concept album, it really didn’t come as much of a surprise. They’ve been building towards this for years. Lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy is, for all intents and purposes, a writer who happens to put his stories into song, rather than a musician who happens to write lyrics. I think he’d probably be rather pleased if I described him as a modern-day minstrel – creating and reworking folk tales, allegories and morality tales.

Hazards of Love is quite an achievement. It manages to be a completely over-the-top ’70’s-prog-style concept album, a morality tale and a proper melodrama all rolled into roughly 60 minutes of song.  By virtue of being a musical the production has to have coherent songs and songs need things like choruses and repetition so precious time is taken being, well, songlike and the plot and the characters suffer; but because it’s a story it has to have a plot so the songs lose out on being really coherent, stand-alone songs because they have to drive the plot forward and tie together in the way that the songs on a pop record simply don’t. I hate musicals. I don’t hate this, but the result leaves me feeling slighly unfulfilled and wishing for a proper record, with, well, pop songs.

Despite this failure, which is not the fault of The Decemberists’ songwriting but a shortcoming of the format they’ve chosen, The Hazards of Love is a very enjoyable listen. There’s some great hooks and catchy bits and while I have very little time for guest singer Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and her rather shrill singing voice, the gothic, menacing vocals of My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden are among the highlights.

What has me turning round in circles, and somewhat let down, then, is the plot itself – which really doesn’t go very far or say very much. Just to explain (and this is a spoiler so if you really don’t want to know the story, stop reading here):

William, our hero, was rescued as a baby by the menacing forest Queen who turns him into a fawn by day and a human at night. He gets himself caught in the underbrush where Margaret, the “heroine” stumbles across him. She goes to help him and while she’s untangling his hind legs he turns into a human. They fall in love and consumate the relationship. Margaret gets pregnant out of wedlock – and since her true love is part animal nobody knows who he is but she’s unrepentant. They want to be together so William begs The Queen to allow him his relationship by evening if he promises to return to the forest by day. They’re happy for a while. Then The Rake, a man whose wife died giving birth to his fourth child and who murdered his other three kids cause he didn’t like being a widower, kidnaps Margaret and takes her away to have his way with her.  The Queen is thrilled and helps The Rake get to safety with his captive by enabling him to cross the deep and rapid river – thinking William will be left to her in the forest. Instead, William makes a pact with the river to let him across to rescue her – saying the river can have him on the way back once she’s safe. As he makes his way to Margaret, the ghosts of The Rake’s murdered children swoop in for revenge, Margaret is freed and united with William and the two of them plunge into the river where they’re swept away to their death – together, still declaring their love for each other.

It’s over the top, it’s outrageous and it’s entertaining. The tunes and the use of instruments provide an ambiance to the tale – The Queen and The Rake get crazy heavy metal guitars while William’s parts are soaring folk melodies of standard Decemberists fare. The standout theme becomes “The Wanting Comes in Waves,” a refrain which repeats itself throughout – foreshadowing the ending when William and Margaret are swept away by the waves to their watery ending.

However, digging further into the story the holes appear. For starters, it seems Colin Meloy has plundered his own back catalogue for ideas. The fawn becoming human is reminiscent of the Crane Wife, herself. The kidnap (and the surrounding crazy guitars) are reminiscent of “The Island.” The Rake could be that same villain at a later date. The ending is akin to “We Both Go Down Together.”

Next, what exactly are “The Hazards of Love”? If this tale is correct the hazards are 1) rescuing random fawns can lead to falling in love with supernatural creatures; 2) falling in love with supernatural creatures might land you with a rather unpleasant mother-in-law; 3) pregnancy out of wedlock can cause fate to deal you an ugly hand – kidnap and drowning; 4) falling in love with a woman that your crazy mother doesn’t like can cause her to side with your wife’s kidnapper and let you drown. I’m not sure where these “hazards” arise – nobody gets a broken heart, nobody gets broken or damaged as a direct result of their emotions – only as a result of their massive character flaws and the cack-handed way they handle the situation at hand.

William is weak-willed, following Margaret blindly, rushing to his death – and he’s not the one who rescues her. And then there’s the women… Now in a morality tale (in particular in a Victorian morality tale), the heroine is actually a heroine. She makes a mistake, learns from it, redeems herself and has a happy ending – see the blind woman who gets her sight back at the end of Mary Barton. Or, perhaps, her mistake is so fatal that even if she learns from it, she dies anyway. In this instance, however, nobody learns anything so the story doesn’t actually achieve anything. In fact, the characters in this tale remind me a bit of Heathcliff and Kathy in Wuthering Heights – another haunting tale – but one in which the lovers got what they deserved because of their own inability to handle their emotions and act like decent human beings.

The second problem is the way the women are characterised – they are victims who do nothing but pop out babies and die (The Rake’s wife), they are flighty, selfish and demanding – and pop out babies (Margaret), or they are venomous and vengeful (The Queen).

Margaret, for her part, rescues the fawn, and for this she is a heroine – but this simple act of kindness is one any feeling person would offer. Rather, once she’s fallen in love and fallen pregnant she refuses to name the father and instead, retreats to the forest unrepentant and without a care, selfishly singing “And I may swoon from all this swelling / But I won’t want for love.” When she is kidnapped and in mortal danger, even knowing her true love’s promise to The Queen, she begs for rescue by him – without fear for danger to him.

The Queen for her part is wonderfully evil and menacing – but her maternal feelings are also of jealousy, anger and vengeance. If she cannot have the son she rescued as a baby all to herself, she would rather see him dead. She helps The Rake across the river, thanking him for “removing this temptation” – and sadly she’s right – Margaret is bad news. She’s misjudged her son’s feelings for the temptress, but does not come to his rescue as he drowns.

And this is where my brain really started churning… The format of the tale means the characters were always going to be half-formed and Colin Meloy would be stretched to deal properly with complex plot strands in the space of an album. But looking backwards across The Decemberists back catalogue it seems he’s struggled to write female characters from day one.

With the possible exception of Valencia, his Romeo and Juliet-style heroine in “O Valencia” off The Crane Wife, his adult female characters all fall into the categories above – helpless (Leslie Anne Levine’s young mother, the female lover in “We Both Go Down Together”), evil temptress (“The Bagman’s Gambit”), flighty and weak in the face of love (the narrator’s mother in “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”) – or even the object of comedy and derision (“A Cautionary Song” – he may be tender, but he’s still mocking the fact that the recipient of the tale has a mother who’s a whore). The only real saving grace in his portrayal of women is in the recent Always the Bridesmaid songs – but even here, “Valerie Plame” is remembered by a former lover (and is possibly the same villainess from “The Bagman’s Gambit”) and the other women, while sympathetic, are a little pathetic. “Raincoat Song” describes a Bridget Jones-style character. “Days of Elaine” is about a middle-aged woman stuck in her glory days of youth.

Ultimately, if you don’t mind a bit of prog rock melodrama, then The Hazards of Love is an intriguing, complex and entertaining listen but it is not without its faults – partially as a result of the limitations of trying to combine a story and a pop record into the same project, but partially because Meloy’s storytelling still needs development and because he needs to learn to flesh out his female characters into the three dimensional and sympathetic portraits he paints of his male characters.

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistle Undone)

The Decemberists – Margaret In Captivity

The Decemberists – A Cautionary Song

Posted by JustHipper on 27th March 2009 at 12:03 am | comments (6)
File under CD Reviews,colin meloy,decemberists,mp3.

Gig Review: Howling Bells @ Club Academy, Manchester, 15th March 2009

Howling Bells @ Club Academy,  ManchesterHowling Bells promised much when we first saw them play at Summer Sundae in 2006 and they put out a decent debut of consistently good, if inoffensive, indie rock songs made all the more palatable by some delicious gothic country undertones. Then I forgot all about them and moved on to other things, so much so that I even forgot that we owned a copy of said album until last week. Now they’re back with a new album called Radio Wars on which they forgo the aforementioned country tinges to explore a more straightforward radio-friendly sound, much, let it be said, to their detriment. Not only does it boast a cover that Razorlight must be kicking themselves for not thinking up first, but also it’s called Radio Wars for fuck’s sake, a phrase that gets me thinking of exciting things like listener figures and Steve Wright in the Afternoon. Now if they’d put an image of George Lamb being kicked senseless in a dark alley in the rain by Gideon Coe and Marc Riley on the cover then I might have approached it with a little more respect.

Howling Bells @ Club Academy,  ManchesterThis is not to say that it’s a terrible album, it has its moments such as the excellent opener “Treasure Hunt” and the single “Cities Burning Down”, both of which were played at the Club Academy last Sunday and both of which held their own against the material from their eponymous debut. It was an assured performance by the band but one with little real excitement save for the attire (or lack of) of easy-on-the-eye frontwoman Juanita Stein. The new material, shorn of its studio lustre, sounded much improved and I even almost enjoyed the excrable “Golden Web” and the nice but dull “Nightingale” and was thankful that they chose not to play the dreadful “Let’s Be Kids”. The older stuff was uniformly excellent however and the likes of “Low Happening” and “Setting Suns” left me thinking what could have been had they continued on the path mapped out by that debut. They played only one encore but it was, surprisingly, the hidden track off the new record. And it was excellent, probably the best thing on the album but a song they obviously weren’t confident enough in to give a credit.

The Joy Formidable @ Club Academy, ManchesterThe gig was made wholly worthwhile by the appearance of support band The Joy Formidable earlier in the evening. The London-based three-piece made a tremendous racket with their hook-laden pop songs drowned in squalls of feedback and white noise, a kind of shoegazy version of Sky Larkin. It was a relentless, exciting performance and they’d played three songs before they came up for air and allowed the crowd to show their appreciation. They also weren’t afraid to extend their songs with lengthy noise-laden wig-outs, which was quite refreshing. While giving Radio Wars a wide berth you might want to think about getting hold of The Joy Formidable’s A Balloon Called Moaning. Hopefully they won’t squander their early promise in the same manner as their tourmates.

Howling Bells – Setting Sun

Howling Bells – Treasure Hunt

The Joy Formidable – The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade

Posted by The Ledge on 20th March 2009 at 7:42 pm | comments (11)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Franz Ferdinand at Manchester Academy 1, March 6, 2009

Or, the gig where Justhipper posts a rant and Franz Ferdinand actually take the time to respond*

I was really looking forward to seeing Franz Ferdinand live again, especially after we didn’t bother on the last go round because we couldn’t stomach the idea of seeing them at the MEN Arena. Seriously, I was looking forward to this – enough to break out of my blogging lethargy.

I really wanted to go down to the Academy 1 tonight and have a great time and write a glowing review of Franz Ferdinand’s live performance. I can’t, however, because I can’t actually tell you much about what they were like. I couldn’t see anything and I couldn’t tell if they sounded any good.

What? You ask – you don’t know how they sounded? Nope. I was there, and I can’t tell you if they played a decent show or not because the sound system was so woefully inadequate that all I could hear for most of the gig was drums and a little bass. They might have played “Matinee” or “Take Me Out.” I don’t know. They might have played “40′” and “Do You Want To.” I don’t know. They might even have played “Darts of Pleasure,” “Shopping for Blood” and “Eleanor Put Your Boots On.” I really can’t tell you because I could make out very little of the gig.

I honestly may as well have stood in a crowd of people in my front room and listened to their albums through the wall on a blown speaker.

At least it barely lasted an hour before I could come home, sit down and be very irritated.

About four songs in to this joke of a gig, Bricking Chick got really hacked off at not being able to distinguish one song from another so she went to complain to the sound guy. He told her to “Fuck off.”  So she went to complain to the venue manager. What did the venue manager say? Well, for starters, Bricking Chick wasn’t the first person to complain about the sound that night. The venue manager said that they never got complaints about the sound yet had 3 before the end of the first song. The venue manager also said that the problem was that bands had to pay a little extra for use of the venue’s sound system – a new sound system that was installed when the renovations took place just over a year ago. This new sound system is really good. Except Franz Ferdinand didn’t have enough respect for their fans or care enough about putting on a good show for people who paid £20 a ticket + booking fee + postage to shell out the extra few pounds for an adequate sound system and instead brought their own rinky dink piece of shite that was not fit for purpose.

Thanks Franz Ferdinand – for the complete lack of respect and for the most disappointing gig I’ve seen in a long time.*

I want my money back.

*EDIT – I’ve changed the H3 to reflect the fact that Alex Kapranos has had the courtesy to come on here and explain the band’s position. It’s really top of him to take the time out of his day to do this for us. It’s clear that the band did think long and hard about the sound at the gigs – sadly in this instance the crappy acoustics of the Academy 1 let everybody down.

Your time is much appreciated Alex, and we’re looking forward to seeing you play at T in the Park in a couple of months.

Franz Ferdinand – No You Girls

Posted by JustHipper on 7th March 2009 at 12:46 am | comments (58)
File under franz ferdinand,Gig Reviews,manchester academy 1,mp3,Rant.

The Ledge’s top 10 gigs of 2008

  1. Leonard Cohen @ Opera House, Manchester, 18th June
  2. Bon Iver @ Manchester Academy 2, 15th September
  3. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds @ Manchester Apollo, 24th November
  4. R.E.M. @ T In The Park / Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 13th July / 24th August
  5. The National @ ATP, Minehead, 17th May
  6. Stereolab @ Club Academy, Manchester, 17th December
  7. Eels @ Bridgewater Hall, 27th February
  8. The B-52s @ Manchester Academy, 22nd July
  9. Silver Jews @ Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester, 27th May
  10. My Morning Jacket @ Manchester Academy 2, 27th June
Posted by The Ledge on 23rd December 2008 at 5:49 pm | comments (3)
File under atp,bon iver,eels,Leonard Cohen,Lists,manchester gigs,my morning jacket,R.E.M.,stereolab,the b-52's,the national.

Gig Review: Stereolab @ Club Academy, Manchester, 17th December 2008

It has been an age since I last blogged and I apologise, but since returning from a two week holiday in the States in early November I became, overnight, what I can only describe as a Grumpy Old Man. All enthusiasm for just about anything had waned, and this included music and especially blogging about music. At a time when I should have been taking stock of 2008 and preparing year end lists of albums and gigs I was instead listening to little that didn’t involve Will Oldham or Tom Waits and not remotely looking forward to any of the gigs we had planned between then and Christmas. Things were so bad that I was quite relieved when the record company’s tickets for TV On The Radio didn’t come through on time and I got to spend the evening taking out my frustrations on the football pitch.

Stereolab @ Manchester Club AcademyWith the clouds lifting I was quite looking forward to seeing Stereolab at the Club Academy last Wednesday, but nowhere near as much as I should have been. I had been a few years since they were last in Manchester yet they are second behind The Wedding Present in the list of bands that I have seen the most: this was probably around the 20th time. Still, somewhere along the line I had forgotten exactly how wonderful Stereolab are live and it didn’t take long to be reminded as they began proceedings with the perky rhythms of “Percolator”. With Laetitia Sadier on fine form, having lost none of her considerable charm and Gallic cool in the intervening years, the band played plenty of familiar tunes from days of yore as well as a few choice cuts from the new Chemical Chords record, an album that I have yet to fully get to grips with, it being packed rather too tightly with dense four-minute pop tunes for my liking. Live, and given room to breathe, the Chemical Chords songs really come to life and the likes of “Neon Beanbag” and “Summer Sands” sounded like ‘Lab classics in waiting with Sadier emphasising the point asking us not to be disappointed that they were playing new songs because “in a few years, they will be old songs”.

Of course they played their best known pop gems “French Disko” and “Ping Pong” and they sounded as good as ever while “Cybelle’s Reverie”, played in the encore, was nothing short of incredible. The band are at their best when they lock into a solid hypnotic groove, which they do often, playing with a rare intensity, shooting glances to each other to signal small but perceptible changes in the formula and creating an irresistible sound that you’ll find impossible not to move at least one part of your body to. The lengthy coda to the otherwise serene “Lo Boob Oscillator” was particularly invigorating as was the classic “Stomach Worm” from their debut LP, Peng!, from way back in 1992. “John Cage Bubblegum”‘s combination of a repetitive, insidious groove with a great pop melody was the night’s finest moment as far as I’m concerned and the vociferous adulation of the packed crowd at the end suggested I wasn’t the only one.

With the band sounding tighter than ever this was easily the best I’ve seen from Stereolab since the tragic death of band member Mary Hansen in 2002. They seem to have rediscovered the elements that made them such a compelling live act in the 90s and it was only on the closing “Metronomic Underground” that Mary’s absence was really felt. For me, it was great to rediscover one of my favourite bands and, thanks to Stereolab, the rediscovery of my blogging mojo might not be too far behind.

Stereolab – Self Portrait with “Electric Brain”

Stereolab – Cybelle’s Reverie

Stereolab – Stomach Worm

Posted by The Ledge on 21st December 2008 at 12:17 am | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester club academy,manchester gigs,mp3,Reviews,stereolab.

Justhipper’s Top 13 Gigs of 2008

Well, here’s my list of my favourite gigs of 2008. Why 13 you ask? Cause I couldn’t pare it down to just 10, especially once I got past the first 8. In any year where I hadn’t seen Leonard Cohen for the first time ever, the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds gig we saw recently would probably have been at #1, but this was a special year for music because not only did Leonard Cohen return to playing live, but the gigs he was playing were absolutely magical. Anyway, here’s the list:

  1. Leonard Cohen @ the Opera House, Manchester, June 18, 2008
  2. Leonard Cohen – “Tower of Song”

  3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ the Apollo, Manchester, November 25, 2008
  4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “We Call Upon the Author”

  5. Rage Against the Machine @ T in the Park – I’ve only just realised we never reviewed T in the Park 2008, which is a shame because we saw some great sets there! RATM were unexpectedly brilliant. Here’s my review of their Leeds Festival performance.
  6. Rage Against the Machine – “Take the Power Back”

  7. The National @ All Tomorrow’s Parties, May 17, 2008
  8. The National – “Start a War”

  9. Eels @ Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, February 27, 2008
  10. Eels – “Railroad Man”

  11. James @ Liverpool University, April 12, 2008
  12. James – “Waterfall”

  13. REM @ T in the Park – Again, we didn’t review this, but we did review the REM gig at LCCG on August 24.
  14. R.E.M. – “These Days”

  15. The Hold Steady @ Manchester Academy 1, December 10, 2008
  16. The Hold Steady – “Killer Parties”

  17. Robert Forster @ the Royal Northern College of Music, September 21, 2008
  18. Robert Forster – “If It Rains”

  19. My Morning Jacket @ Manchester Academy 2, June 27, 2008
  20. My Morning Jacket – “Aluminum Park”

  21. Band of Horses / The Cave Singers @ Manchester Academy 2, February 24, 2008
  22. The Cave Singers – “Seeds of Night”

  23. Daniel Johnston and Friends @ New Century House, Manchester, July 24, 2008
  24. Daniel Johnston – “Rock This Town”

  25. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone @ Charlies, Manchester, March 13th 2008
  26. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – “Don’t They Have Payphones Where You Were Last Night”

Posted by JustHipper on 14th December 2008 at 6:53 pm | comments (6)
File under gigs,Lists.

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.

The Manchester Gig Guide: 27th October – 2nd November 2008

Noah And The Whale have scored a quite surprising amount of chart success in recent months so it’s a surprise that they’re playing a vanue as small as the Academy 3 on Monday night. It’s not surprising that it’s sold out, though, and with Nitin Sawhney the Academy 2 on the same night it looks like the Academy is just a step too far at this point in their short career. On the same night, French ambient post-rockers M83 play the Ruby Lounge and Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds are on at the Roadhouse. I just looked at their Myspace and thought, “Hey, they look a bit like The Young Knives, but with more members”. Then I listened and lo and behold…

There’s an very good bill at the Deaf Institute on Tuesday where Drowned In Sound put on Wild Beasts with support from the excellent Cats In Paris and with members of the recently-split Long Blondes on the decks. On Wednesday we’ve got The Walkmen at the Academy 3, Jackie-O Moherfucker at the King’s Arms in Salford and Canadian country rockers The Sadies at the Night & Day.

Elbow return to the Apollo due to popular demand on Thursday while WOTGODFORGOT put on A.R.E. Weapons (remember them? thought not) at Big Hands on Oxford Road. Also at the Apollo on Saturday are Hot Chip which will probably be a far more satisfactory experience than the Icicle Works karaoke that Ian McNabb will no doubt be bringing to the Academy 3 for a mere £15 a head.

Posted by The Ledge on 26th October 2008 at 9:00 am | comments (5)
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The Manchester Gig Guide: 20th-26th October 2008

There’s plenty more to be going on with in Manchester this week with Rilo Kiley’s flame-haired indie siren Jenny Lewis on solo duty at the Academy 3 on Monday. On Tuesday there’s Vampire Weekend at the Academy with support from Wild Beasts while downstairs at the Club Academy there seems to be a hangover from the weekend’s Beepfest going on with Jim Noir, The Beep Seals, Gideon Conn and Magic Arm performing. And it costs nowt to get in, with entry being on a strictly first come, first served basis.

On Wednesday the Manchester Blog Awards are taking place at Matt and Phred’s on Tibb Street and we’ll try our best to get down there on time (we weren’t nominated – boooo!) ‘cos we’ll be at the Academy 3 for the Shred Yr Face tour featuring Times New Viking, No Age and Los Campesinos! It’s going to be very noisy but we’ll probably duck out after openers, the excellent TNV, to make a dash for the awards, the nominations for which can be found at The Manchizzle. On the same night at the Deaf Institute the wonderful young Swedes Those Dancing Days will be holding court with Joy Formidable in support. There’s plenty more where that came from with Tilly and the Wall and Slow Club at the Club Academy and Aimee Mann at the Academy. A busy night, then.

On Thursday there’s a major clash with Mogwai at the Academy and Port O’Brien at the Night & Day. As good as The Hawk Is Howling is, I think I’m going to plump for the Night & Day as Port O’Brien’s debut All We Could Do Was Sing is one of my favourite albums this year and I’ve seen Mogwai many times before anyway. Also on Thursday, Elbow, buoyed by their recent, and much deserved, Mercury Prize success, play the first of two nights at the Apollo.

On Friday you can catch local electro-poppers and parentheses botherers (We Are) Performance at the Deaf Institute while the Aftershow at Moho Live brings us the likes of The Maybes?, The Old Romantic Killer Band, The Orchids, Pushbike Army and The Faraways.

On Saturday, Black Kids play the Warehouse Project and on Sunday you can see The Datsuns at the Night & Day or Mystery Jets at the Academy 2, perhaps.

Posted by The Ledge on 20th October 2008 at 12:02 am | comments (10)
File under gig guide,manchester gigs.