Sunday, November 23, 2008

Live Review - Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
Corn Exchange, Edinburgh

Words: Chris Hynd

You know, what with people being people (and me being me I guess), there's certain bands that you just begrudge having any kind of success. And me being me, Death Cab just isn't one of those bands - from playing the likes of the (now sadly gone) Venue on the other side of town to selling out the Barrowlands on their last tour and now the Corn Exchange on this one after the release of their latest LP "Narrow Stairs" - this is a group who've worked at it and have earned the right to be where they are. Obviously, I wonder how many of the 400 or so souls from that Venue gig in 2004 (I think. Being an old man now means that the memory isn't as good as it used to be!) are in attendance tonight - I can say 2 for sure (myself and erstwhile colleague JC) but it looks like the somewhat youthful make up of the audience means that the figure probably isn't that great.

And that doesn't matter a great deal when you think about it - Death Cab have continued to be Death Cab, good guys playing the songs they want to play and a band who seem totally comfortable with where they find themselves right now. A roar greets them as they start with "Bixby Canyon Bridge" off "Narrow Stairs", Ben Gibbard, in his customary position stage left , seems to be in thrall of the occasion and adulation and feeds off it, while Chris Walla on the opposite side to Gibbard remains in the shadows and goes about his business with the minimum of fuss. And it works - from the killer segue of "The New Year" and "We Laugh Indoors", the light poppy groove of "No Sunlight" and "Soul Meets Body", Death Cab continue to knock out the great tunes. You can be a band at a certain level, but if you don't have the songs to back it up then it's going to be a struggle to remain there. It's always been about the songs, about the music and that really shows.

That's summed up perfectly by Gibbard playing "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" in the middle of the set, his acoustic paean to love and death has been taken to a new level in the live arena, somewhat like when you see Stipe introduce "Losing My Religion" from some Enormodome stage as "your song... we're only covering it". The obvious thing would be to save it for the encore but it works well half way through the evening. "We Looked Like Giants" is the biggest song of the night, the drums pound and the guitars roar and Gibbard's self-confessed "only dance song" "The Sound Of Settling" rattled along at a fair old lick, those insidious "ba-ba's" getting right into your head and never leaving.

The crowd, loud in their appreciation of the songs but respectful as a whole, seemed to enjoy what they saw and I have to say that I did too. This is a band I've been with a long time, part of me wished they'd just come out and do "The Photo Album" from start to finish but I always knew that wasn't going to happen - new records, new fans, new beginnings but, as I said above, a Death Cab that are totally comfortable with where they find themselves in 2008. A glorious "Tiny Vessels" / "Transatlanticism" mix closes proceedings and as Gibbard and company up the volume for the latter's crescendo-like finish, the noise and light seems to come together as one. It's a great way to finish.

Aye, they ken whit they're dae'in' thae boys...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Live - The New Year / Chris Brokaw

The New Year / Chris Brokaw
Nice & Sleazy, Glasgow

Words and Photos: Chris Hynd

I had intended to review this gig a bit more fully, but sometimes it's good to go and watch a band and enjoy the show without having to worry about reviewing it. Both sets were great though, it was good to see Chris Brokaw in solo mode again (playing, as wryly noted later on by Matt Kadane, "acoustic death metal"!), his set was mostly instrumental, quite big and angular sounding and quite brilliant. The New Year were just tremendous, they're a band I've loved for a while now, obviously Matt and Bubba Kadane have the Bedhead credentials of yore but their sound (triple axe attack!) was perfectly formed, the 3 guitar set-up worked a treat, layering all the different parts to the song and making it come together beautifully. And they played "Gasoline", and that was OK by me.

Here's a few pics from the night to illustrate -

Monday, November 10, 2008

Record Review - Love.Stop.Repeat

Make Your Own Adventure Records

Words: Chris Hynd

The first thing that strikes you about Love.Stop.Repeat is the care put in to the packaging of this, their first self-titled EP. Individually hand-made and bound, this is a record that is open, welcoming and warm right from the get-go. It's a package L.S.R. hope you will cherish and come to love over time. And they've made it easy for us, for the beauty of the music certainly matches the beauty of the CD.

It's a record that evokes nostalgia for things and events past, for the landscape that we travel through and become part of and "Secrets And Slumber" immediately showcases this, Lindsay West's sweet, sweet voice and Dave Millar's instrumentation, a wistful accordion battling over a jarring beat, "I still remember the feeling of solitude" sings West and you are immediately transported to back to the place she sings about, it's wonderfully done. "Pictures" and "Sunday Strolls And Miracles" continue the theme, the latter subsequently discovered at a recent show in Edinburgh to be a song about a trip to Cramond Island and as West sings "feel the weight of a heavy heart, as we pass along the coast, suddenly I realise, it's you I miss the most" and as the accordion and harmonium wheeze and a guitar is plaintively played you can't help but be caught up in West and Millar's trip.

"A Busy Heart Beating Strong" adds some piano to the mix, West's sultry vocal and Millar's glorious, textured drum sound sweep you away and "Melt Away" is built around a lovely little ukelele riff. The EP closes with "The New York Song", the simplest song on the record, West tells the story of a trip to New York with her sister as Millar plucks out a line on the ukelele, voice and simple instrumentation, nothing more is needed. It's at this point that I wish the last song went into the killer segue with Neutral Milk Hotel's "In An Aeroplane Over The Sea" as it does in their live shows as it's the perfect way to finish. But alas not, you'll have to go to one of their shows to experience that.

It's been said before but it really is the only word for it, this truly is a lovely, lovely record. 2 people, no fuss, no clutter, a beautiful voice and a beautiful sound. More of the same please Love.Stop.Repeat folks.