Sunday, 6 April 2008

PREVIEW: The Kills, Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh, Tues 15th April

Call her what you will but Kate Moss sure knows how to pick ‘em. Having leeched off Monsieur Doherty’s media jamboree until it scurried away like a rozzer raided crackhouse, she’s quickly clambered onto to the cliff-edged cheekbones of The Kills’ guitarist Jamie Hince. Unsurprisingly, it’s all coincided with the release of Hince and Alison Mosshart’s third long-player Midnight Boom but, rest assured, the Anglo-American ensemble are the antithesis of Moss’ ex-beau’s gum-diseased rapscallions. A phlegm gobbing frontgal with a snarling blues rasp, Mosshart is the embodiment of late 70s DIY Punk – abrasive, antagonising, alluring – and backed by Hince’s minimalist riffs the duo make for an enthralling live proposition that leaves eardrums battered and bloodied. If reports are to be believed, the scene-fucking supermodel has been barred from blurting out her dulcet tones on unsuspecting audiences so you’ll have the added bonus of witnessing her diva-esque strops from the sidelines. Result.

PREVIEW: The Dirty Projectors, Cabaret Voltaire, Fri 25th April

Dave Longstreth is nothing if not obscure. A Yale school dropout with a history of voluptuous sonic conceptualisations, Dirty Projectors’ 2007 release, Rise Above, was a stirring reprisal of its awkward spearhead’s favourite Black Flag LP Damaged. Littered with wiggling melodies and three part harmonies, it’s challenging rhythmic twirls corroded the grey matter of hypnotised listeners and scuffled almost unnoticed into every on-the-pulse critic’s end of year hitlist. Live, the band encapsulate the record’s intricate components with remarkable ease, adding to it a depth that fingers the African spindling of Peter Gabriel and slivers across the rarely chartered canyon of avant-garde jazz. Such labyrinthical arrangements can, of course, mystify at times but so resolute is Longstreth’s dedication to his art it’s difficult not to be swept away in the sea of on stage aural mastery. Obsure? Certainly. Breathtaking? Absolutely.

INTERVIEW: Isosceles

In the overtly verbose world of modern-day music journalism there’s an adjective that rears its grubby heid time and time again. It’s a word that, according to The Oxford English Dictionary’ trusty conglomeration of morphemes, has little pertinence to the creation of melody, but amidst the music industry’s ink-smudged pages it’s an omnipresent, siren-screeching indication of a specific sound. The offending word is of course ‘Angular’. The sound? Turbo-charged Post-Punk Pop - or something.

Armed with a scattershot of chiselled guitar jerks, hyperventilating drum splutters and a name that hardly suggests horizontal linearity, it was perhaps inevitable that Glasgow quartet Isosceles would be quickly scurried in with the radian contorting ‘It’ crowd since forming at the back end of 2006. So, armed with both protractor and a dusted down Secondary School physics text, The Skinny catches up with keyboardist William Aikman to uncover whether there’s a certain *cough* degree of truth to the media’s eager-beavered pigeon-holing.

“Aye, we get a lot of comments about how our sound is ‘angular’ but it’s not an intentional thing at all,” he says despairingly. "Musically, we don’t want to be lumbered in with anything, but once it’s out there and people are writing about it it’s not up to us what they say about us anymore. We just want to get on with what we’re doing and hopefully make a bit of a success out of it if we can.”


Success is beginning to come easily to this fledgling ensemble of university chums who initially converged for a friend’s birthday party in Aberdeenshire (intriguingly entitled ‘Muckfest’). Having released their riotously infectious debut A-side Get Your Hands Off/I Go in August last year to an ambuscade of praise, the group were hand picked by, some time Guardian food critic and art-chic chieftain, Alex Kapranos to support Franz Ferdinand on an 8 gig Scottish tour. And after mingling with such indie-pop glitterati it seems Isosceles have developed a taste for the golden crusted cracknel of stardom:

“I think [playing with Franz Ferdinand] was the point where we thought ‘actually, we can do this full-time’,” William states assuredly. “It was obviously a professional operation they were running and it was our first introduction to a proper tour where it was really busy and we had professional equipment to use. So in that way we’re doing a little bit better handling the practicalities of touring and things… At the beginning we did it for a bit of fun but now we’re taking it a lot more seriously and writing songs with a lot more of a purpose.”

But as a sardine-crushed smorgasbord of Glasgow bands currently catches the eye of the nation’s salivating A&R men what is it that makes Isosceles unique? “I’m not sure if any one thing does,” says William. “Maybe we are just another Glasgow band but I think that all the Glasgow bands, certainly the ones that are fairly successful, are completely different from each other. I think the thing about it is that you have to be unique and have your own style and if you don’t the Glasgow record-buying public aren’t going to be too impressed – in this city you can’t reproduce anyone in order to succeed.”

A radiant blush of Hammond keys and jinking riffs, new single Kitch Bitch doesn’t quite fill a swag-bag with the triumphant sounds of West-Coast dwelling luminaries past but it certainly tips its head to the likes of Orange Juice, Franz and 1990s. So how are we categorising-crazed hacks going to describe the sound of Isosceles in future? Sharply drawing breath for a brief second of comedic timing, William quips knowingly: “I dunno. Angular maybe?”

First Published here

Photos by Loraine Ross

ALBUM REVIEW: Barry Adamson - Back To The Cat

Having had neither the desire nor financial capability to undertake a four-week cruise around the tropics it's difficult to envisage life aboard such an ostentatious vessel. But, aided by the picture-box glow of a few late night infomercials, I imagine it goes something along the lines of: wake up, wander around the deck in the pissing rain / scorching sun, retreat to bar, vomit, eat, endure some god awful cabaret act, vomit once more, sleep (repeat until either land is found or ship capsizes).

Such regimented ventures are almost certainly made for those whose hunger to explore has vanished from world-weary bones, replaced by the need for a satisfactory jaunt around the globe without spark or stimulation. And in many ways Barry Adamson’s eighth solo outing Back To The Cat mirrors this unchallenging nautical vacation, with the former Magazine guitarist and one-time Bad Seeds collaborator taking the helm as the ship’s late night crooner.

For someone who possesses a CV of such disagreeable industry, Adamson has created an insipid, spiritless record that’s the absolute antithesis of his past glories. Bulging with disposable jazz-stained ballads and mould-encrusted soul, the sum of these sleekly produced numbers is an inexplicable conundrum when you consider the Manchester-born conceptualist was at one time accosted by David Lynch to transfer his 1988 debut, Moss Side Story, onto the silver screen. On the basis of this lacklustre affair, it’s safe to assume his digits are now dialled by the likes of Tom Jones or – more distressingly – Mike Flowers Pop.

Full of bruising bass and smouldering, air-tight brass, opener ‘The Beaten Side Of Town’'s off-the-cuff blues initially disguises the unbearable cheese-mongering to come but once the big band swing of ‘Straight ‘Til Sunrise’ coos its way through the airwaves Adamson’s easy-listening predilection begins to unfold. Smothered by a spread of twinkling keys and saccharine trumpeteering, the track’s swooning lamp-swaying is perfectly executed but lacks the substance to indent the attention before being rejected as little more than the loungey ear-comforting exuded by Bennett or Manilow.

Admittedly, Adamson’s bleak narrative is distinctly more coarse than the cringing granny-wooing pursued by either rubber-faced cripple, but the limp, melodic sheen embedded within ‘Walk On Fire’ silky smooth nu-soul or the decrepit loin-burning of ‘Straight ‘Til Sunrise’ renders his fiery-eyed tirades obsolete. A moment of luscious tenderness resides in ‘I Could Love You’’s tear-duct inducing pleads – a precious, misery-strewn lament that owes much to Redding’s classic ‘I’ve Got Dreams To Remember’ – yet this is a mere blip, one gorgeous ray of sunshine that’s quickly consumed by ‘Civilization’’s miserable MOR-spewing rain cloud.

Album closer ‘Psycho_Sexual’ displays one final hint of menace as Adamson’s vulgar, predatory tones mingle lecherously amidst the smoky haze of trumpet, drum and organ but, having endured the Hamlet-chuffing vapidity that precedes it, this eerie finale lacks the heart-shuddering impact so clearly intended. And that’s perhaps the most mystifying element of this record; for all his banal Radio 2-aping, Barry Adamson is undoubtedly a talented composer with a penchant for voluptuous waves of sound. But once you’ve set sail with Back To The Cat make sure you find the nearest life jacket – you’ll need it a lot sooner than you think.

Rating: 4/10

Out Now on Central Control International

LIVE REVIEW: Isosceles & Meursault, Voodoo Rooms, 26 March

Four years have passed since the release of indie-disco filling gargantuan Take Me Out and ‘The Franz Ferdinand Effect’ is still percolating its way through the sounds and styles of today’s sprightly young Scots. Over this period there’s, unsurprisingly, been a number of not-so-welcome downsides to the band’s chart-seiging rise to prominence, with a glutton of rueful, fame-hungry reprobates clasping to their coat-tails with barely a modicum of tune between them [see The Fratellis or, the infinitely more despicable, The View]. But, by injecting a shot of libido-stirring energy into the fey bookism emanating from the cafes of Glasgow’s Byres Road, Alex Kapranos and co have, on the whole, spawned a shameless awaking of intelligently cut poppism in our guitar-clutching, tartan-clad hopefuls.

Of course, such overt self-awareness hasn’t affected those of a more deadpan disposition and as Edinburgh four-piece Meursault shuffle on to the Voodoo Rooms’ starlit stage tonight you get the impression Franz Ferdinand means little more to them than the name of an assassinated Austrian Archduke. Normally a dazzle of acoustic infused electronica, the group have been called in as a last-minute replacement for local upstarts Come On Gang! and, disappointingly, their set is bereft of the astral-gazing effects sprawled across debut LP Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues. Yet, as Neil Pennycook’s miserablist tones howl out amidst a glorious cackle of ukulele and feather-plucked banjo the ensemble’s thread bare paeans lose none of their throat gulping beauty.

Riddled with a tenderised charm that cloaks Pennycook’s lyrical brutality, each stool-bound pslam is a mysterious haze of late-night contemplation that scours matters of the heart with the finest melodic tooth-comb, gutting out long-forgotten sins into an open-forum of confession that absolves itself in the audience’s forging eardrums. Of tonight’s offerings, the tumultuous strums of ’The Furnace’ is the stand out; impatiently hovering at the crossroad between the brittleness of Besnard Lakes and Cave Singers’ hollowed out chasms. But such is the depth of the band’s hard-worked industry it would be foolhearty, and somewhat blinkered, to linger on specific peaks in a mountainous range of highs and, as the jagged re-working of The Pointer Sisters’ ’I’m So Excited’ calls the curtain on this jubilant set, giddy minds begin to ponder the exquisite aural goodness a fully-functional Meursault could induce.

It's in tonight’s headliners, Isosceles, where the seeds of Franz have undoubtedly been sewn. Hand-picked by the indie-leviathans as support on the Scottish leg of last year’s UK tour, the Glaswegian quartet’s penchant for clean-heeled pop and abrasive riffs certainly bears all the hallmarks of a Mini-Me Franz awaiting the arrival of self-distinguishing chin hairs. Yet, in the avalanche of squiggling keys and quirk-driven jangles that bulges incessantly from the stage lies a sense of independence that differentiates the ensemble from the current gaggle of plagiarising, skinny-tie wearing clones currently stomping their way through the bristling underpass of the Scottish music scene.

A deranged fusion of Bis’ disco-poppery and Josef K’s jittery guitar clunking, debut [double ‘A’ side] singles ’I Go’/’Get Your Hands Off’ are unadulterated spurts of retroised, rug-cutting brilliance laden with hooks, wonky-tonk synths and gleeful handclaps. Throughout the set’s entirety frontman Jack Valentine is a hyperactive blur of activity, projecting his sweat soaked skeleton into a ream of protractor defying angles during every candy-coated freak-out, but there’s infinitely more to the group than his limelight stealing showmanship.

Tighter than the breeks of a poodle-permed 80’s rocker with a slowing metabolism, ’ISOSCELES’’ illicit wooziness jerks off to a flurry of four-pronged harmonies and vibrant Hammond all hurried along by Valentine’s sneering wordsmithery, while the cowbell-infused stomp ’This Is Where It Ends‘ recalls early Fire Engines skewed with the melodious guitar jangles of Orange Juice. Forthcoming single ’Kitch Bitch’ makes for a climatic closer - ablaze with lascivious chord quirks and a full-bodied bassline not too far from the hedonistic squirms of fellow Glaswegians Mother & The Addicts – ensuring these starry-eyed scamps leave the stage to a rapturous smattering of adulation befitting a band teetering on the brink of a breakthrough.

And in this multitude of comparisons is where Isosceles most staunchly replicate a certain Glaswegian arthouse-lounging troupe. Never the most original of acts, Franz pilfered the ear pleasing elements of their idols and stewed them into one globe-dominating beast of a record. Isosceles may not quite be the finished article but, on the basis of this performance at least, such lofty ambitions are far from unattainable.

Meursault: 8/10

Isosceles: 7/10

Photos by Loraine Ross