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Whippet Out – Pure Reason Revolution, King Tut’s Glasgow

An example to us all, Howlin’ Whippet defies age, logic and climate to go out in search of more rock and roll redemption.

Pure Reason Revolution are one of those odd bands that are somewhat jealously guarded by their fans. It’s almost on a need to know basis, a type of I-could-tell-you-but-I’d-have-to-kill-you situation. This, as you can imagine, is no way to conduct a successful unit-generating rock monster. Having a loyal fanbase is a great thing to have, but when that fanbase never gets any bigger, you ain’t on to a winner.

Pure Reason Revolution are also the type of band that are unlikely to be appearing on Celebrity Jungle anytime soon. They do what they do, and according to many they do it better than anyone else in the UK, but self-publicising is not their bag.

Sadly, this is the end of the road. The group, formed at Westminster University in 2003 are to call it quits. Tonight is their second last gig.

After a brief spell on the clown McGee’s Poptones label, Pure Reason Revolution have generally been self-sufficient. Three albums of psychedelicised choral rock generated under their own steam have seen them move into a more electronic orientated sound. Most recent release Hammer and Anvil was yet another huge step in their voyage into mind-melt territory.

Prog or psychedelia is too narrow a description for this music. Sure, there’s odd tempo shifts and obvious instrumental mastery, but the intertwining vocals of Jon Courtney, Chloe Alper and Jamie Wilcox suggest a celestial meeting of Gregorian chant and Beach Boys harmony than anything akin to ogres like Porcupine Tree or Muse. This is prog with the lightest of touches.

But don’t misunderstand, they can rock too, and when they somersault a quiet intro into the blitzkrieg of ‘Trembling Willows’, the roof of King Tut’s palpably shakes.

There are touches of Nirvana in some of the songs – ‘Aeropause’, for example, having the quiet/loud dynamic down pat. Imagine Cobain if he preferred Rush to the Sex Pistols and you’re close.

The first set tonight is debut album The Dark Third played in it’s (almost) entirety. The spacey tones of ‘Bullets Dominae’ and ‘Bright Ambassadors of Morning’ bring to mind the opiated bliss of Spiritualized or early Pink Floyd despite some early sound problems.

After a short break, PRR return with what could be called a greatest hits set, if, in fact they’d ever had anything remotely like a hit. The propulsive ‘Deus Ex Machina’ could kill Rick Wakeman stone dead. ‘Les Malheurs’ sounds like an inner city riot in miniature. Chloe Alper has became the focal point in recent years, and despite her slight frame and obvious discomfort at being centre stage, her vocals and colossal bass riffing give PRR a very definite identity all of their own. Jon Courtney’s playful keyboard fills and unhinged guitar playing make categorising them impossible.

One can tell that it’s nearly over for them. The reserve and gentle nature of the band members is still clear, but tonight they’re having fun. Pure and simple, rocking out like a group of friends.

They finish with ‘Amor Vincit Omnia’, a fitting end. Statuesque, icy, austere and emotive.

That was Pure Reason Revolution, then. When will we see their like again?

 Photograph by Marcus Holland-Moritz. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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