SXSW 2014 preview coverage
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A moment of euphoria unfurled in 2010 as Broken Bells shifted 50,000 copies of their eponymous debut album within the first week alone. Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and The Shins’ James Mercer – the songwriting duo behind such a well crafted and somewhat existential collection – toured successfully, supported by five cherry picked compatriots.
But, almost 2 years passed before Mercer spoke of future plans for the indie troupe (save the ‘Meyrin Fields’ EP in 2011), and it would take 2 years more for these plans to become tangible. So here we are; waiting with baited breath for the new year and the answer to whether follow-up LP ‘After the Disco’ can maintain pace, with only new single ‘Holding on to Life’ to dissect in search of clues.
Strip joint psychedelia is perhaps the most accurate summation of the first 45 seconds of the single, with heartbeat bass thud and eerie theremin-like fluctuations giving way to the first words of Mercer, here playing the role of an assured ‘80s new romantic come to rescue his own “waitress in a cocktail bar”. By the pre-chorus, he’s shifted up into a nasal falsetto and the song timewarps back 10 years; Barry Gibb emerges from a low mist of dry ice made turquoise in the glow of an underlit dancefloor somewhere on the disco nebula. The space/time defying detour travels furthest away from planet now during a curious middle eight that possesses an air of both The Beatles and The Kinks, whilst maintaining just enough of their signature sound to make sense. Recapturing the ‘70s buzz, Broken Bells close with a synth line that spins with a sporadic twinkle – a mirrorball mesmerizing in its stationary orbit. And, if this single is anything to go by, fans of their dreamy, multi-faceted sound are likely to get their indie dreamscape fix.
‘Holding on to Life’, the new single from Broken Bells, is now available from Columbia. Watch the song’s ‘pseudovideo’ below. Upcoming album ‘After the Disco’ will be released the 14th of January 2014.
‘Champagne Supernova’ rang out from inside the faux regency portcullis that frames the stage at London’s faithful Brixton Academy. The crowd, clearly hyped, were eager to catch up with their own palatable rebel just weeks before the release of his latest album, hopeful of the chance to garner any loosely disguised teasers. What was once part of the raw appeal of Jake Bugg – his stripped back appraisal of urban life in often decaying provincial centres – has become a brand on the back of the astronomical success of his debut LP. This was one of the first opportunities for his most loyal UK fans to learn whether he would stay true to his roots.
Oasis’s seminal track gave way to the haunted tones of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’ reverberating around the cavernous hall as Bugg and his band coolly took to the stage with all the fanfare of a band practice on a rainy Tuesday. The sense of compulsion that is at the heart of the Johnson “I sold my soul to play the blues” legend (a misplaced attribution meant for his predecessor Tommy Johnson – one for all you bluesos) was also evident in this 21st century journeyman, who has delved to depths beyond his years since the tender age of 12 – even if it could have been done using a more subtle, less worn cliché.
Not the kind to require total self-reinvention on each release, opening track ‘There’s a Beast and We All Feed It’ was a neat little teaser from his eagerly anticipated second album ‘Shangri La’ that suggested his vantage point has remained the same, even if his horizons have changed. His blissful incoherence already stood in stark contrast to the bubblegum autotune of so many of his contemporaries.
The stage layout was simple, with drummer Jack Atherton shifted off to the right and a scaled back lighting rig hidden behind a sheet adorned in Bugg’s now universal half vinyl logo. Beams like truck headlamps erupted through the darkness for ‘Troubled Town’, an infectious single release from his eponymous debut album that details the apathy of the British recession in his native Nottingham.
The first chords of ‘Seen it All’ – a song that perhaps best characterised his initial shift from promising protégé to dominant chart force – pulled the crowd up by their vocal chords for a rousing recollection of urban hijinks with a Bob Dylan esque narrative and soaring choral line.
‘Simple as This’ was the first of the night’s mellower tracks, and although it’s hard to dispute Bugg’s sincerity, it’s fair to say that he seemed to find it more difficult to connect fully with an audience that were more overtly distracted than, say, Arctic Monkeys to The Verve within three tracks.
Aside from activating the advertising node of all fans of slightly watery mainstream ale in the room, ‘Country Song’ provided relief in demanding total attention from a crowd that had hitherto drifted in and out. Such a unified moment caused the song to echo off the vast ceiling, even if the “old rusty guitar” of which he sings is sounding a little more clinical these days.
Despite its meeker approach, the crowd remained fixed throughout ‘Pine Trees’ and on into ‘Song About Love’ (get your laughing gear around that in a thick Midlander accent!); a number that showed real versatility and rose to a lofty, magnificent summit. Such a view became the perfect intro to the image rich ‘Slide’, another acoustic wander that beautifully expresses Bugg’s vocal range and joy in isolation.
The daydream was shattered as the rest of the band returned for the mildly psychedelic vibrato of ‘Green Man’, which passed in a customary two minute thirty blur into the swinging “you take the wheel” blues rock of ‘Kingpin’ – one of the standout tracks from Bugg’s upcoming album. ‘Taste It’, with an intro that resembled Johnny Cash’s cover of Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’, had the seated circle on their feet in appreciation, whilst the skiffle sound of ‘Slumville Sunrise’ spoke of separation from nostalgia and alienation in a pacey, amped mould. The final track of the set proper, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, was a manic first finale with an up-tempo beat and slicing solo, with Bugg himself exhibiting an unmistakeable tonal inflection worthy of Alex Turner.
Again, Bugg instigated a major dynamic change to the set as he returned for the pastoral grief of ‘Broken’. The audience would repay his self-effacing admission of outsider tendencies with their most interactive response yet, united in voice and a point of view that they could not have put so eloquently. With slide guitar and a gospel sounding chorus, this is also one of Bugg’s clearest indications of musical malleability.
The subtle juxtaposition at the heart of Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)’ might have been best covered by Bugg mid-set, as the audience grew antsy for their personal favourites to be shoehorned into the closing minutes of the set. However, the concept of placing oneself outside the archetypal established or contemporary musical circle – the idea that forms the fulcrum of Young’s original – is undoubtedly one that chimes with Bugg.
It was right to give the final slot of the night to a track that potentially played the biggest role in elevating this young troubadour to his current height. Coming after two such touchingly personal numbers, there was an element of “putting a brave face on” throughout ‘Lightning Bolt’ that rendered it stock compared to his performances a couple of years ago. But, with its jangling chords and country fried vocal melody, it was a chance to take stock with a bass and drum breakdown, even though the majority of the crowd were behaving more like frontmen by now than the song’s own architect.
At this stage of his career, it seems fairer to label any criticism of the band more as growing pains than a precursor to survival in the musical wilderness. Yet again, Jake Bugg possessed one compelling feature that granted him brevity; that it was evident he’d still have writing those same songs, even if no one had ever listened.
Whimsical indie rock four-piece Sky Larkin have reinvigorated themselves with a crisp autumnal LP in ‘Motto’ (reviewed by Carrie here), their third studio album out now on Wichita Recordings. Following a 3-year hiatus, a line-up change and what sounds like a subtle shift in perspective, drummer Nestor Matthews stepped in to talk us through their latest release after a balmy reunion with fans at London’s Lexington in September.
Sky Larkin has some new blood, with Sam Pryor and Nile Marr coming in on bass and guitar, respectively. How would you sum up their influence on your latest album, ‘Motto’?
It was fascinating to watch the songs develop and grow as they travelled through new ears and new fingers. Their interpretations and responses to the noises and established ideas that Katie and I might have been used to as Sky Larkin made us, in turn, open to new ideas and avenues that we might have never thought to explore were it not for them.
Do you think that the time you’ve had to reflect during your three years apart has changed the feel of the album?
I’d be worried if the time hadn’t changed us in some way. I think we took the opportunity to hone what we wanted to do and be, so that when it came to making the record, there was an unstated sense of unified direction and velocity. We might not have been fully clear on what we wanted the record to be, in the early stages at least, but we had the time to work out how we wanted to get there.
‘Loom’ (previous Video of the Moment here) has ‘irritating personality trait’ written all over it. Who’s got the worst habit in the band?
I thought I’d managed to conquer it, but towards the end of our recent UK tour I found myself tapping my forehead with a drumstick on stage again. It might not be particularly annoying for anyone else, but the headache and angry red forehead that I woke up to the mornings after certainly made me pretty irritable/irritating!
You came from a special moment in the history of the Leeds music scene, alongside the likes of Pulled Apart by Horses and Grammatics. What do you think is unique about the provincial approach?
I think it’s very much to do with the melting pot that was, and still is, Hyde Park. Students from every university and college in the city live there in back to back houses, with ideas and sounds and friendships constantly osmos-ing between the walls. Then there is, of course, The Brudenell Social Club, where those sounds and ideas can be put into practice in front of an enthusiastic and welcoming community of like-minded creators and collaborators. I don’t think it’s necessarily a special moment in the history of Leeds, but just a special place, as it’s still happening right now!
What is it about Seattle as a recording location that keeps pulling you back?
When we first ventured across the pond our plan was that in a new and scary place we would have to focus on working on the record, we wouldn’t be able to pop home for a cup of tea or stay out that little bit too late with friends the night before. But then as we got to know our producer John Goodmanson and he got to know us and as we gradually began to remember our way round it became almost the opposite of that: a city that we know and love in which we can work with a great producer who knows how to get to what we’re after and, most importantly, where to find the best coffee and doughnuts.
We know Sky Larkin are big festival lovers. What would be your perfect summer itinerary for 2014?
I’ve never managed to make it to an All Tomorrow’s Parties before, and now it looks like perhaps I never will, so ATP would definitely be a top, although extremely optimistic, priority for 2014. I’d like to make it to Liverpool PsychFest next year too, apparently this year was infinitely greater than last year, and last year was amazing!
I also completely missed David Byrne and St. Vincent’s Love This Giant European tour, which sounded absolutely incredible. David singing St. Vincent songs, Annie singing Talking Heads songs, horn sections and sporadic choreography, all the ingredients for a great festival show, right?! So, if they could be added to every bill for summer festivals that’d be great, thanks.
Oh and maybe The Knife for later on at night too, please!
What is the motto that matters most?
TOUR NOT BORE
TGTF would like to thank Nestor for taking time out of the band’s hectic tour schedule to answer our questions and Kate for sorting this for us. Cheers!
To walk into the imperious surroundings of London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire is to walk back 150 years into the heyday of music hall; the embellishments of the theatre acting as dressing to the waxen seal of approval granted by the now world renowned venue to the next generation of musicians. And, here it was futuristic folksters The Airborne Toxic Event, who lie somewhere between a cyborg Levellers and gooey American indie pop, chose to touch base with their faithful British fanbase and unveil their most mature and multi-faceted album to date in ‘Such Hot Blood’.
Greeted with the passion of a London crowd that had been chomping at the megabit for their somewhat adopted offspring to return, the Californian five-piece careered into old favourite ‘All at Once’ like someone had pushed Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen and Mumford and Sons into the Large Hadron Collider. Without so much as a “hello”, their unique brand of foot-stomping post folk had the audience cooing like 2000 proud parents. This opener, a favourite single from 2011 critically acclaimed album of the same name, was a taster menu for everything that was about to follow, encompassing aspects of style, stagecraft, dynamics and instrumentation that would be sculpted throughout the set.
The first 30 seconds or so of ‘Numb’ was blighted by withering feedback (on the top level of the venue at least), which meant as normal service resumed, the more syrupy, Americanised side of their style was heightened. But, this ‘Big Bang Theory’ bubble quickly burst as vocalist Mikel Jollett delivered a barrage of obscenity and attitude; a trait that also elevates them above their barbour-bearing folk brethren. Third track ‘Wishing Well’, the first ever penned by the singer, provided further means of character definition. Undoubtedly a folk heavy version of the original, the lyrics speak mainly in cliché but were delivered with such emotion it was clear whatever principles the band were founded on meant much more than they were then able to express. Three studio albums later it would appear they have found clarity and purpose in that voice, perhaps dispelling a few of their own demons along the way.
The aptly titled ‘Changing’ was the first instance of musical chairs that night, with all musicians seemingly equally proficient on each others’ noise makers. A funked up drum/synth intro that plunges into heavy power chords, viola player Anna Bulbrook – who has until now been playing the trequartista in tying the midfield rhythm section to the attack of vocals and guitar – moved onto the keyboards for a swinging number with less pace, but an infectious chorus. ‘Gasoline’ sticks at a similar speed, but has a rolling thunder bass intro, as well as a traditional structure and vocal melody that wouldn’t seem out of place at a Flogging Molly concert. Ever the showman, Jollett enlisted the crowd by inciting stereographic cheers, before holding an inhumanely long falsetto in ‘Happiness is Overrated’. The song generated the biggest chants so far, but when the levels are stripped back it seems the appeal of The Airborne Toxic Event is that they write massively hyperbolised versions of songs you could easily imagine yourself humming down the street.
Not to be outdone, drummer Daren Taylor (a largely unsung yet immensely cohesive element of the show) stole his first solo of the night accompanied by Jollett playing the cymbals with his hands. Elsewhere, Bulbrook was shaking her tambourine from bassist Noah Harmon’s shoulders. The whole spectacle was like stumbling into a barn where a group of farmhands had cracked into the farmer’s super-strength moloko. But, that’s how folk should be – in one form at least.
There’s nothing new about bands trying to butter up a London crowd. In general, we are far too cynical to pay credence to the host of miscellaneous ‘firsts’ that bands claim to have had whilst in the city. But, there’s something compelling in The Airborne Toxic Event’s claim. Having added the influences of The Stone Roses, Joy Division and The Smiths (to name but a few) to their sound during their time here, they were rewarded with their first record deal in the city, and now describe it as their own “music Mecca”. ‘This is London’ is a fitting tribute from their latest album; a ballad with an air of nostalgia that was belted out with the affection of Alicia Keys towards New York in the warbling ‘Empire State of Mind’. After the flattery had fluttered away, ‘Safe’ was a return to scheduled programming with a delicate, ‘Tubular Bells’-like piano intro and lonely viola lines. The cyclic chorus was a real hook, and as Jollett rammed his hollow body guitar into his hip with legs akimbo, he couldn’t help look a little like an epic bandleader in the form of a Chris Martin or a Springsteen.
‘Sometime Around Midnight’ gave the set somewhat of an injection of pace that built into ‘All I Ever Wanted’, a tight track off ‘All at Once’ that was a real showcase of Taylor’s skins skills and formed the end of the set proper. They returned with ‘The Book of Love’ (no, not Dusty Springfield’s aural caramel of an almost identical name, the Magnetic Fields’ version), and it was visible that they had given almost all they physically had. Luckily, the song was a laid back, acoustic number that took Jollett down to the barrier once again as the mirror ball began to fire beams of light from above his head. ‘The Graveyard Near the House’ followed a similar path, but with all bar Jollett and Bulbrook exiting the stage for an intimate few moments. The male/female vocal exchange epitomised love divided, like the lowest ebb before resolution begins in a romantic comedy.
Penultimate track ‘Timeless’ began with the kind of deliberately restrained groove seen on The Clash’s ‘Straight to Hell’ (or MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’ for all you punk noobs), and took the award for ‘Chorus most likely to haunt you until 5 AM when you actually consider ripping your own ears off just to get some rest’. The song – about the elation and feeling of invincibility that purportedly come with meeting an adequate mate with which to continue the species – is a strikingly apt analogy for the band itself. In that 90 minutes alone, they exhibited a willingness to look backwards to traditional western folk styles, as well forwards to a more digital, synthetic age, whilst also existing as a stalwart of the present.
Jollett took to the mike to offer a very personal thank you to the fans before they wound up for the evening, explaining that he had always been struck by the ways in which the same album can be interpreted as something to either celebrate or mourn to by different people. Considering the circumstances that persuaded him to put pen to paper for the first time, you can see why this is an attractive proposition. One of the most accomplished vocal melodies of the night with its Simon and Garfunkel-esque meanderings, ‘Missy’ began with real energy as Bulbrook and Harmon launched themselves onto the barrier. However, in one of the more questionable incidents of the night, this then morphed into Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ – an act that I can only assume is a real killer across the pond. Star-spangled cynicism grew as the first chords of The Boss’ ‘Born in the USA’ rang out, but at least Jollett framed this as a protest song, and again the comparisons between the two blue collars was evident. The band finally pulled the plug by doing something that Americans do better than anyone, turning it into a blues number where everyone can steal a solo.
It’s easy for two countries with as much in common as America and the UK to pick up on each others’ little foibles. This is especially true when it comes to music, and even more so with a genre like folk, seeing as, err… us limeys invented it (cue threats to reanimate Woody Guthrie and his fascist killing machine). America took the sound of a mediaeval British village and gave it some serious chutzpah. It has since spawned blues and country, as well as regional spin offs such as zydeco, and in recent times has had the measure of the folk hero in the mould of Guthrie, Dylan or Baez, even Simon and Garfunkel. We heard them and raised you Mumford and Sons, for which we are eternally sorry. But, one name that will perhaps stand out amongst the rest as our great great grandchildren paw through a walk-in wiki of our cutesy 4G age, will be The Airborne Toxic Event.
With its rugged industrial charm and labyrinthine layout, XOYO has rightly garnered a reputation as something of a factory for fresh musical talent; churning out bands that, although by no means identikit, have all the fundamentals in place to become an integral component in the wider music scene. And, so it was that the night’s bill featured a final prototype in Wild Swim; innovative, raw and full of potential, alongside the second generation invention of Duologue, who tweaked their original design by performing a first set with string quartet in tow.
Wild Swim, a distinctly dapper denomination in today’s free-wheeling synth-pop realm of psychedelia, kicked off proceedings with the nostalgia of ‘I Know Where My Home Is’. Funk-laden bass lines underpinned the enigmatic stagemanship of Richard Sansom in a style reminiscent of New Order, belying their tender age and status as one of tomorrow’s hottest tickets. One form of‘80s stylisation gave way to another as the Oxfordian five piece took on a new romantic edge for their as yet unreleased track ‘Solace’. Here, the BPM received a real boost while the synth and keyboard was bought to the fore to mingle, in a distinctly Spandau Ballet fashion, with world music drums and a soaring vocal line.
A band’s true character emerges when, after months of rehearsals, something completely unexpected doesn’t quite go their way. So, as the feedback reached wince inducing pitch at the start of ‘Echo’, it was reassuring to see all five members stoically proceed through such a delicate, spacey number. The intro – a stripped back, nuanced affair to match the accompanying video – dropped into a perfectly executed timing change that kept the track on in the ascendency. Next, the band’s third single ‘New Dawn’ (set for release on the 21st of October) took a heavier approach, with powerful guitar chords, tribal drums and atonal vocal harmonies.
Although regularly compared to former fellow Oxford residents Foals (seemingly for that reason alone), ‘Deer Song’, with its neat harmonies and wholly danceable rhythm, was the first time that such a claim had been evident. A climactic number with so many aspects that it rarely repeated itself, Sansom declared that although they are still writing their first album, this track will make the final cut. Wild Swim’s final track of the night, ‘Too Late’, has also made the grade. The bass/vocal intro gave way to a deep groove and accomplished vocal melody that left the crowd in no doubt as to why the chatter around these boys is getting louder.
Later on, and to a now bursting room lit only in a UV glow, experimental five piece Duologue were given a rapturous welcome as they prepared to deliver a schooling in originality and vision. Through a fog of ominous bass sounds, accompanied by frontman Tim Digby-Bell taking a violin bow to his SG in honour of the band’s new string compatriots, came the shuddering bionic mass of ‘Machine Stop’, the opening track from their debut album ‘Song & Dance’. A pulsating broken beat over lofty vocal harmonies, everything about Duologue’s first track spoke of alienation in a hollow new world of connectivity.
Stood in almost total darkness, illuminated only by a flickering band of amorphous barcode, the band’s next number ‘Get Out While You Can’ was similarly atmospheric. Electronic gadgets, in life as in music, made the basics easier, enabling Duologue to focus their spare attention on finding another level. The synthesised beat kept things suspiciously tight, while the vocal looping and cheeky dubstep wobble bought them from an aurally analogue, to a digital world. The string quartet was subtly introduced on the suitably gothic ‘Underworld’, a mournfully dystopian track with a typically IDM beat and clever call-and-response vocal melody.
By now it was clear that although all the aspects of their sound fed into the same overall picture, there were subtleties to each track that made Duologue satisfyingly difficult to pigeonhole. ‘Constant’ was an indicator that the troupe could probably best be pinned to the hazy locality of post-‘Kid A’ Radiohead or, perhaps even more so, Thom Yorke’s solo Atoms for Peace material. ‘Talk Shop’ greatly lifted the pace of the set, and was somehow more accessible, if not lacking slightly in the technicality that had been exhibited so far. The room darkened again; the barcode reappeared and began to fold into a ball made of scratched lines as the band played on into ‘Gift Horse’, accompanied by a scuttling synth rattle and a burgeoning string section.
Both ‘Zeros’ and ‘Cut & Run’ were raw with an abrasive layer of feedback. After the latter, the lights went up (by little more than a watt), causing the illusion to go on temporary hiatus as the puppet masters were revealed. The pounding beat of Duologue’s final track, ‘Push It’, was mirrored by clapping and chanting from the clamouring crowd, who moved in a style more reminiscent of a rave than a gig. By now the barcode has morphed again into a billowing tapestry that folded and weaved into itself, as the industrial beat grew to a mighty closing crescendo.
Although the distance between the two bands was vast in terms of their influences, fan base and current career progression, what they both showed was that invention is having somewhat of a resurgence in music today. In booking bands with the understated pedigree of Duologue and Wild Swim, XOYO proved that their industrial model is not stuck in the age of mass production, but has rather diversified into the 3D printed tomorrow of customisable commodities.
The sumptuous surroundings of The Lexington in London’s Kings Cross, with its deep claret walls, raised mezzanine and Victorian charm, always seems to yield a civilised affair. Especially when set against the floorboard-ripping antics of Camden’s many boozer/venue crossovers that lay just the other side of the station. And, here again, a diverse crowd of loyal fans and curious new-bloods converged for Sky Larkin’s first London show in 3 years; an intimate airing of their already acclaimed third studio album ‘Motto’, released just a day earlier on Wichita Recordings – “the only label that will bring you a whiskey on stage”. (Read Carrie’s review of ‘Motto’ here.)
Opening with ‘Still Windmills’ from their second album ‘Kaleide’, it was fitting that the first lyrics uttered that night were: “I know there’s potential”. Not only was their live sound a nicely fattened, foie gras extension of the playfully whimsical vocals and multi-level guitar fog of their studio sound, but, as we were soon to find out, their latest material represents an effortless slide into musical maturity. ‘Treasury’, the first offering from their new album, was transformed into a kind of call-and-response meeting of tempos that hadn’t been half as evident on the album. It’s a racy number, dripping with feedback, which climaxes with lead singer and guitarist Katie Harkin wailing at the mic from six inches away to add a new realm of reverb.
Their next track, ‘Loom’, carries the same kind of infectious potential you’re warned about in sex ed classes, with an accompanying video that playfully juxtaposes the sense of frustration through inactivity elicited in the lyrics. Their live interpretation had an air of Giant Drag about it, and for such a streamlined guy, bassist Sam Pryor managed to produce a behemoth bass line more reminiscent of rolling thunder. In so many ways this song sums up Sky Larkin’s approach to music; forgoing the passions of love and hate for an investigation into the nuances of normality.
A flutter of high-hat and snare from drummer Nestor Matthews gave the chorus of their next track, ‘Carve It Out’, a sense of brevity that lifted it above the more conventional indie rhythms that had been on display so far. A busy number with a thousand components, the track showcased the versatility that, in part, is the reason ‘Motto’ is on an upward trajectory. Next up, ‘Bravo Dodo’ was a lesson in how to make a two word chorus imply more than any Meatloaf-like barrage of language; sitting back on the beat, confident in its own majesty.
‘Frozen Summer’, a slow burner centred around just two chords, built progressively into an epic closing section that married interstellar cyclic arpeggios and a lumbering, comedy dinosaur bass line. The interaction between the three present band members during this track gave the biggest indication yet of the kind of rapport that can be cultivated from spending 8 years onstage together (although Sam Pryor only stepped in last year, and guitarist Nile Marr was absent). Between jibes about Sunderland Sam’s “why-aye phone”, and the hilariously cutting query over whether “anyone here was from London”, it could be seen that such comfort suggests that this album, as the lyrics suggest, represents the summer of their own souls.
Harkin got lost somewhere in the stripped-back simplicity of at the start of ‘Newsworthy’, focused squarely on a single spot on the back wall to the extent that you didn’t want to turn round in case you saw a rogue 747 making a beeline from Heathrow. By the end of the track – a standout on the new album – she was beating on her guitar with fervour, a theme that continued (with just a hint of indie irony) into ‘Matador’, from their 2009 debut ‘The Golden Spike’. A well placed cover can tell you so much about a band’s influences and mission statement. And, so it was that the band descended into X-Ray Spex’s ‘The Day the World Turned Day-Glo’; a choice that signifies a move away from bigoted feminine pop archetypes and towards a more tongue-in-cheek, lyrically challenging concoction. Oh bondage, up yours!
One last sojourn into ‘The Golden Spike’ with ‘Summit’ was clearly appreciated by the old faithful and, after a wrangle over whether an encore was worthwhile if you had to walk through the crowd to get out, they decided to plunge straight into their closing number, the title track of their latest album ‘Motto’. Quite a statement for a final track, and likely to be the only song that has had the time to be fully digested by their fans, ‘Motto’ built out of three lonely chords with a bass line reminiscent of the opening of The Doors’ ‘LA Woman’. It is not a similarity that continued, however, and the freedom Katie was able to express through her wandering vocal melodies kept raising that same X-Ray Spex inspired flag. Seemingly somewhat of a satire on the music industry’s promise to deliver “the mottos to mutter” (or, more accurately “the catchphrase of the cash cow”), it was evident by now that Sky Larkin had given everything in an hour-long burst of energy; creating something that no amount of pay advances and larynx insurance could conjure – real world emotion.