Thursday, April 22, 2010

No pigeons. Fewer holes.

Manchester Deaf Institute. 19apr10.

Easy comparisons do not flow as easily towards Caribou as gripping rhythms do from them, which is probably how they would want it.

When I say ‘they’, I guess one has to mean ‘he’ as Dan Snaith is as much the recorded ‘Caribou’ as a caribou is a French-Canadian’s reindeer. Not that it was always thus, as Snaith previously worked under the name Manitoba until Richard Manitoba of The Dictators sent round some geezers. Geezers with law degrees anyway. Is that a court subpoena? No, it’s just the way his trousers hang, and so on.

In the live environment, Snaith works with Ryan Smith, Brad Weber, and John Schmersal, and they create a big sound for Caribou, bigger than would be within credible reach of one man. Certainly tunes from the latest Caribou LP Swim are given a little more grit. If it sounds a little submerged on the record, it bursts through the waves like an angry whale when put in these eight capable hands.

Certainly when Snaith joins Weber for a double-drum set assault, the whole Caribou experience ratchets up a notch or two, as well as when Ryan Smith’s guitar is occasionally given license to squall.

While the pinning motifs are the warp and bubble of programmed electronics, and Snaith’s forlorn howl (the plaintive wail over Kaila’s pulsing deviations being a particularly fine example), let nobody say that Caribou have not got a captivating rock band show in them, nor that they don’t have bona-fide pop songs. Cos, they have, and they do (see Odessa, particularly).

In places you could say what they do is a kind of a cool, dry, Tefal-egg-head kinda funk, all gathered up betwixt beat friendly soundscapes, or you could say they hold their ear to a glass to a wall on the other side of which Magma-style space-prog occasionally plays.

Too much shoe-horning doesn’t do anyone any good though, so let’s just say Caribou give good live show.

Caribou @ MySpace

review also appears at Vanity Project


Friday, April 02, 2010

Ba-da-bada-da, Ba-da-bada-da...

Kings Cross Monto Water Rats. 30mar10.

Several have come from overseas for this. There are Czechs here, Fins, Americans; all making the effort to experience three consecutive nights of Therapy? in the tiny back-room of a London boozer, as they record a live LP.

The band appear to be hedging their bets on what’s to be on the eventual album too, with each night featuring a radically different set-list. Although the big crowd pleasers like Screamager (see below) and Nowhere are ever-present, of course.

Many here have bought into all three gigs but I gambled on the middle one, slithering tactically between the potential for both ring-rustiness and demob happiness. A further element of risk was the chance that I’d miss them playing my particular favourite tune, Innocent X as well.

Thankfully, only the Monday punters missed out on that particular treat, and treat it was. The sound of the ‘heavy-breathing-down-the-phone-line’ sample that signals it appeared as the final note of If It Kills Me dissolved, and triggered the kind of giddy physical abandon that I had thought locked away in a teenage time capsule.

I guess coming to see Therapy? again after all these years is an exercise in nostalgia, given that I’ve not bought any of their albums since 1998’s Semi Detached. However a gig at the Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms last October reminded me just how thrilling they can be live.

Whilst it’s interesting to hear the new stuff played out, and some of it, such as Enjoy The Struggle and I Told You I Was Ill is pretty rigorous stuff, and as good as current drummer, former Cable thumper Neil Cooper, is, I’m not sure they ever recovered from the loss of Fyfe Ewing. His snare-snap, rave-beat drum style was what really made those early albums and EPs special, and on record nowadays it feels as though Therapy? are content with just being a solid 4K’s in Kerrang! rock band. There are certainly worse things to be.

Looking at the set-lists of songs chosen for recording live over the three nights would suggests though that, in their heart of hearts, core members Andy Cairns and Michael McKeegan might also feel that 1995’s Infernal Love whilst dripping in addiction to both cocaine and the sartorial combination of false moustaches and frilly shirts, was their last really good record, certainly in terms of ambition anyway.

Indeed, tonight’s stand out moments all date from the early-to-mid-90’s; the mashing of their Joy Division cover Isolation with Loose; ancient b-side Evil Elvis; the Babyteeth debut album combination of Innocent X and Skyward from 1991 and the always thrilling Teethgrinder, prefaced here by the audience being required to vocally supply the “ba-da-bada-da” kickstart riff.

There’s plenty of this audience participation littered throughout, all screaming our names at once to see if we can pick them out on the record being one, but they needn’t worry about the music hall gambits, the tunes selected are more than enough to send those of us here with eager anticipation to the record shops when the eventual live opus appears.