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JS&TC Album Launch...
John, Shelly & The Creatures, Before Machines, Queer Giraffes
How far will you go to achieve the dream? In the quest for rock and roll stardom, the golden land of opportunity, are you prepared to offer yourself to the dark gods of RAWK?

It would appear that Queer Giraffes' frontman Steven Toner is more than prepared to make this offering, quite literally falling to his knees and clutching at his heart, whilst the emotions pour forth over a trad-rock backing. Curiously for such a musically unadventurous band, Queers Giraffes may be one of the most divisive prospects out there at the minute, mixing some perfectly competent alt-countryish rock with an over-the-top theatricality that would be hilarious if it wasn't so earnest. Every time a great guitar lick or ear catching melody happens, it's immediately undercut by the sub-Springstonian posturing that surround it. It makes for a frustrating listen, because ultimately, there's some good songs and playing lurking within this rock and roll nightmare, but it comes across as a grotesque parody of what rock music is actually like.

In complete contrast, Before Machines are a serious bunch, rarely engaging with the crowd, but instead letting their soaring guitar-scapes and infectious choruses do the talking. Recalling The Appleseed Cast's ability to mix atmosphere with melody, it's subtle, it's effective, and it works. Perhaps they could ease off on the seriousness a little, and some of the songs need trimmed back a little, becoming in danger of outstaying their welcome, but otherwise Before Machines seem ready to take a step up and really become a headlining act in their own right.

But tonight is all about John, Shelly and the Creatures, who are launching their debut album, Dinosaur. It's a full house, and the band bound onto the stage displaying the easy-going charisma that has garnered them so much support over the last few years. The album shows the band at their layered and introverted best, but tonight finds them in full on rock and roll mode, recalling the strident majesty of the Hold Steady at their rawkus best. It's very, very ragged around the edges, with all the subtlety hammered out of the songs, but the devoted crowd laps it up anyway, hungry for more.

An encore is demanded, and the band kick into 'Angeline', a song not fortunate enough to even make it onto the album, but which sounds immense in the tightly packed confines of Auntie Annie's. In a way, it's easy to imagine John, Shelly and the Creatures becoming the kind of vital rock and roll band that Queer Giraffes already think they are, injecting vital passion and hope into the tired old corpse of rock and roll. The thing that separates them is "charm", and these boys have got it in spades.

Steven Rainey

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Gig Details
Venue: Aunt Annies
Location: Belfast
Date: 4/3/2010


Related Links
+ John, Shelly & The Creatures (myspace)
+ Before Machines (myspace)
+ Queer giraffes