Sunday, 6 April 2008

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

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