Thursday, 1 November 2007

LIVE REVIEW: Broken Records - Henry's Cellar Bar, 26 October

Lately, an invisible wall has been built around Auld Reekie’s music scene; the type of impenetrable parapet where no-one wants in and no-one ever gets out. The grimey shadow from across the M8 lingers forebodingly over the city’s cobbled streets, turning heads to the tune-ridden hyperbole of jingle-smiths like Franz Ferdinand, Belle & Sebastian and the 1990s while Edinburgh’s dishelved artistes are left clenching their teeth with the bitterness of an attention-starved younger sibling. That’s not to say there’s been a lack of effort from ‘The Best Place To Live In The UK’’s natives – Found and The Magnificents slay the senses with more verve than any recent Blighty-based exponent of sonic pandemonium – but while the world transfixes it’s gaze on the smorgasbord of West-Coast delights, Scotland’s Capital sits pensively awaiting it’s call to the spotlight.

Yet tonight perhaps this elongated biding of time has come to an end: in Broken Records Edinburgh finally has a band on which hopes can be pinned and pints can be spilled. There’s no Top-Shop inspired angular-riff shenanigans going on here – the closest this unkempt septet have come to Shock Waves is surely from unwittingly extracting slices of charcoaled bread from the toaster with a knife – yet it’s this lack of self-awareness, this overwhelming sense of stuttering, introverted modesty that makes Broken Records so utterly alluring. Untarnished by the industry’s vulture-like clutches or the South’s spirit-sapping toilet circuit, for once this is a band that’s benefited from the city’s cotton wool insulated interior.

The group’s swaying, melodramatic melodies sweep feet clean from the floor with the bustling charge of keys, accordion and brass that bulges from glorious skyscraper opuses like the majestic ‘If The News Makes You Shy Don’t Watch’ and ‘Nearly Home’. With such a wealth of emotion-invoking instrumentation, inevitable Arcade Fire comparisons will never be far from the tips of scribbling pens but an eclectic urgency far beyond such staid estimations infiltrates its way throughout the set: rippling violin wafts contort into frantic Balkan-punk bedlam; scratching mandolin glides across a cacophonous sea of escalating Celtic rhythms before dispersing abruptly on a shore of crashing symbols; and tender folk-tinged acoustica drops jaws to Jamie Sutherland’s melting, virile mew. It’s bedazzling, it’s euphoric, it’s spine-tingling – really, it’s whatever the fuck these seven prodigious zealots on stage want it to be.

And the beauty is the one hundred or so punters here tonight care for absolutely nothing else. There’s no bar-room guffawing at locals rising above their station, no sneering musos exuding their bilesome putdowns; instead uncoordinated jigs commandeer the front line while synchronised heads nod spellbound at the back. As gorgeous set closer ‘Slow Parade’ ghosts its way to a climatic, captivating finale, the shuddering applause says it all: Edinburgh simply isn’t big enough to contain the sound of Broken Records for much longer. When that wall comes tumbling down, Britain can consider itself very, very lucky.

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