With Battles downstairs and Guillemots upstairs The Zodiac hosts two bands championed by Zane Lowe in the Download’s interview before Christmas. Oh! The agony of choice. We plump for Guillemots as it’s the last date of their tour and the drummer used to thump skins for Oxford’s Suitable Case For Treatment. If you saw Battles let us know what you thought!
The PA resonates with what sounds like whale song or jungle birds or possibly even the noise they use in films to indicate approaching dinosaurs. Bathed in blue light, Fyfe Dangerfield sings solo. Eerie synth creeps in and as the light turns red the rest of the band emerge from the crowd amidst the clamour of sirens, brass, percussion and keyboard effects.
The whole gig is quite theatrical, thanks in part to the classical orchestration. Guillemots’ opener reminds me of a storm scene, I’m imagining the wind roaring round a ship as it capsizes. An animal/ nature theme develops throughout the night and there’s a somewhat primal feel in the air especially on single We’re Here’s thunderous drumming. Trains to Brazil is exultant with stirring chord changes and hats off to them for sneaking the word ‘erroneous’ into a pop song.
Dangerfield is a funny little man throwing his head back, opening his heart up and wailing his lungs out. He’s the centre piece but it’s a good move bringing in the extra elements so he stands out from the David Grays of this world. In his cap and scarf he reminds me of Richard Walters though I’m sure others would disagree. How about Doogie Howser MD grows facial hair and wigs out?
A few songs are introduced as “quiet and reflective” possibly a bit too much so. There’s chatting at the back, the audience are all hyped up from the Mystery Jets’ support slot and a girl asks me to write that they were better. Guillemots seem to realise and rectify the situation temporarily with a bit of audience participation, we’re told to go ‘BRRR!’ and ‘WOOF WOOF WOOF’ and we make monkey howls, ‘aiaiais’ and ‘awoogaawoogas’. There’s an entertaining exchange sparked off by a mad punter which I’d describe as brand name tennis: Mad Punter: “Casio!” Fyfe Dangerfield: “Yamaha!” MP: “Suzuki!” FD: “Moog!” MP: “EMU!” he’d obviously run out of keyboards which I suppose signifies the end of the game.
But then Guillemots ignore the mood and stubbornly re-introduce the (some might say) self indulgent numbers. For their penultimate track Fyfe plays a keyboard with one finger, unamplified. We clap along hopefully and are promised a loud one “If you give us an encore - we didn’t get one in Manchester”. You can guess why. The final melee consists of jazz brass mentalness, a tin bashed with a pot and a sound resembling a creaking hull. Repeating the lyric ‘thrown across water’ it seems the band are sailing gloriously home. Yet rather than end on this high the group get their encore and play new acoustic ditty White Rag followed something disastrously bizarre that mainly goes SHE IS EVIL EEE EEE EEE. We along with many others sidle out of the room.
Guillemots. By turns joyful and mournful, weird and wonderful, experimental and exasperating. I like them but must admit tonight was not the time or place for such a chin strokers set.