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Gig Preview – The Abyssinians, Glasgow ABC May 16

aby1Many musicians are given the sobriquet “legends”. Very few deserve it quite as much as roots reggae’s enigmatic Abyssinians. Formed in 1968, the group reunited in 2004 and have been touring the worlds stages, defying their years ever since.

Launching themselves on Jamaica and the wider world via Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One with their first single release Satta Massagana, they’ve influenced artists as diverse as Bob Marley, Damon Albarn, The Clash and Bruce Springsteen.

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Whippet out – Imelda May, Glasgow ABC

Dark coat, whiskey and a lingering sense of drama – yes, it’s ELMs sonic preacher man HowlinWhippet out and about again. This time, he seeks sanctuary from the Brits with a trip to an artist on that first upswing of success.

I first came across Imelda May one night (ooh er) whilst watching the Glastonbury coverage a couple of years ago on TV. She appeared on one of those little “in the bar” vignettes, playing acoustic-like with only her guitarist (and partner) accompanying her. It was truly one of those eureka moments. Continue reading

Whippet out – Heaven 17, Glasgow ABC

The Whippet goes out searching for redemption in the strangest places. he finds some in the form of electro-pioneers Heaven 17.

Once more the intrepid Whippet drags his weary bones out in the wintry Glasgow night. This, I have to say, is more at the behest of Mrs Whippet who has something of a penchant for what is known in Anarchy Heights as “Eighties throwbacks”.

I do, however, have something of a soft spot for the album being re-lived tonight. It’s the 30th Anniversary of Penthouse And Pavement, and I’m keen to see what a 21st Century makeover will bring to one of the albums that defined the Thatcher/Yuppie-era.

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Vigo Thieves – Glasgow, ABC2

Stevie Jukes of the Vigo Thieves

Stevie Jukes of the Vigo Thieves

Scotland is an odd place. It’s not the biggest, but large parts of it are empty and almost unspoiled, as the original inhabitants of the place appeared to pick around twenty locations around the whole country as designated living areas and have since just built upwards on those. This creates the fairly unusual situation where no matter how deep you are into urban modernity or grime, you are never really more than an hour away from the countryside.

This creates a juxtaposition between reality and fantasy, the ever-present realization that there really is something different out there, because you’ve seen it. All Scottish people are dreamers. Continue reading

Modest Mouse – Glasgow ABC

There are some bands who exist in a world of their own. Sometimes it is a world of their own creation, be that through conscious decision or simply through massive sales and status. In the case of Modest Mouse, it’s down to many things but the inescapable truth is a basic one; they just don’t really sound like anyone else. Continue reading

Super Furry Animals – Glasgow ABC

SFA's - Still WelshWe’ve been getting criticism for our basically-racist stance of disliking the Welsh because of…well, I’m pretty sure I don’t really need to spell it out to you if you’re not Welsh, and if you are, you probably wouldn’t understand anyway. But in the interests in fairness we thought we really should see if there is more to their culture than the cliched images of leek, sheep and suicides. So we sent our most scabrous contibutor, the devillish Scant Regard, to go and see one of their most famous exports…..

I, much like my esteemed colleague ELM, am not very partial to the Welsh. Not in an Ann Robinson way, I have nothing against them as a race, I just don’t really like their accents very much. This, coupled with the fact they gave the world not only the Manic Street Preachers, but the also the Stereophonics, makes it quite hard to like music made in Wales.

So, why, I hear the voice in my head ask, did I find myself standing outside the ABC last week with a ticket to see the Super Furry Animals in my sweaty hand? It’s a very long story thats origins go back into the mists of time – 1998, to be precise, when my brother first asked me if I wanted to go and see them. No, I said, they are Welsh. Continue reading

Ladytron – ABC, Glasgow

ELM’s resident curmudgeon Vespertine checks out the hotly-tipped electro act;

I approached this gig with an open mind. I knew a few Ladytron songs but had no in-depth knowledge of the band or the set they were likely to play. But the company was good, and I was able to have a few pints and a lift home! Sometimes going in blind is a good way to evaluate a gig. Sometimes it isn’t of course, but live music is an experience in its own right I suppose and differs from the guarantee that playing a CD, MP3 or vinyl record brings with it.

First, the downside of the venue, a venue I really like. To reach the smoking area you leave your drinks on a small table and then go outside. Upon return my pint had been lifted. I assume it was by some large haired student arsehole who has a constant hard-on daydreaming about Peaches Geldof. There were far too many fashion victim types, readers of The Face and id magazine. Rant over.

The band emerged wearing black, to a dimly lit stage. The impression they give is of electro goth and guess what? First impressions arecorrect! It is hip swinging, groovy and funky but it’s goth at heart. And this is strangely unsettling. The image one has of the band is one of bacofoil suits, laser beams, tinkling synths and vast projections of the planets. To find the reality is closer to Curve (google them kids!) is a tad odd. The live set up seems to have been geared towards a more ‘rock friendly’ sound with bass, drums and guitar being added to the keyboard. It is a very common move for electro bands, but has its own problems. Should such a band, whose image is so striking, be ‘reduced’ to something akin to indie rock? Is the need to promote the album reducing the scope of their ideas?

A second quibble is the sound: the vocals are too quiet. That is never good at any gig. Glaswegian Helen Marnie is the ‘front woman’ such as they have one, but she struggles to make herself heard at times. She does dedicate a song to her 83 year Gran who is in the audience, a nice touch!

However the songs themselves are often very good; from huge, brooding, dark opener ‘Black Cat’ sung in Bulgarian by Mira Aroyo, through to pop/electro/goth stormers such as ‘International Dateline’ and ‘Runaway’. There are moments that show the band could break free of their self-imposed ghetto: ‘Ghosts’ is simply a very, very good song and ‘Fighting In a Built-Up Area’ is a superb shimmering slice of funk. Great songs give any
band hope of a breakthrough. They have some great songs and so the future they often allude to in image terms is still up for grabs for them.

My gig partner was delighted when they ended on ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’ – another excellent track. It brought the short gig to an end and we emerged into howling wind and rain. Ladytron weather perhaps? They don’t strike me as a sunny afternoon festival band.

Overall a mixed bag: perhaps a lack of variation in their sound, and the need to get their songs across in a live setting has reduced the impact of the idea they had. Too often volume and crunch replaced soft caress of their sound. Four albums and a decade together must also dilute that initial impact to match minimalist synths, jump suits and dystopian lyrics. It’s hard to dream of a soundtrack in your head when the bills need to be paid. They are the kind of band you’d almost rather didn’t play live but instead transmitted their songs from an orbiting space station.

But when they are good they are very, very good and could move the feet of a corpse. The gig worked for me in the most crucial sense: I will be buying downloads and exploring their work further. That is a result for someone who came as a casual listener.