I Am Austin/Mother Of Six/We Shiver - Telfords Warehouse, Chester
The Manics are playing in Manchester tonight. I haven't seen them since Reading in 1997. And although I've rarely been moved by their music (since queuing to buy Generation Terrorists from Probe in Liverpool back before you were born, possibly) I feel a real urge to reacquaint myself with them.
What I've heard of their new album sounds good. Music Box's Mark Foley - fundamental dancing cog in Cardiff's musical ecosystem - is doing something terribly important as part of their crew, and he owes me a beer. I owe him 10. The draw towards Manchester is very strong. But I have an Open University assignment to get in, and I'm on a promise to attend I Am Austin's EP launch in my local.
So, I forget about Manchester, get my head stuck into using schemata, mental images and concepts as techniques to improve memory and surface from the psychology textbook in time to scarper from the house and see the first band.
Although this is technically I Am Austin's EP launch, the event has been scuppered somewhat by news that their label has folded. So, the ageing radio presenter who had been invited to host the night and introduce the band is no longer required, but the gig - with a small line-up change - goes on regardless.
The slight change of circumstances might explain why attendance is, like Liverpool's chances of maintaining their Premier League status, on the thin side. Telfords Warehouse is where I work when I'm not gabbing on the radio. My (much younger and attractive) friends work here. I've seen so many great, life-changing musicians here I couldn't begin to list them. But scuzzy noise doesn't fit well in its high-ceilinged environs.
I put Mclusky on in here almost a decade ago. More white wine spritzers were hastily abandoned while they soundchecked than when the building was ravaged by a sudden Saturday evening fire at the turn of the millennium. I saw Swansea's Suns Of Thunder empty the building through sheer force of volume. No, Telfords has all the punk rock credentials of, well, me actually.
First band We Shiver's crepuscular skitter through the tattered edges of Gothic indie sounds more Bombay Bicycle Club than Birthday Party, more Interpol than Joy Division. They're a very new band. There are interesting ideas here - but it's ragged and unrehearsed. They're not helped by a very unforgiving sound. The bass is pretending it's a wasp farting through a kazoo. From up on my (over-used to the point of lame-ness) high horse, I'd suggest they barricade themselves in the nearest rehearsal room for a month or pack it in. There's potential here. But, as the man with the pencil behind his ear said surveying my half-rotten roof the other day: 'it needs work'.
Mother Of Six are a different matter entirely. After a faltering start, their proggish stoner rock draws a crowd to the dance floor. They triumph despite the fact that they exude more diffidence per square inch than a singularity of teenage hormones.
Mother Of Six
Quite what we've done to make all but the drummer and one of the guitarists turn their back to us, I don't know. But by denying us faux stage amiability and 'performance' they make the music the focus of our attention.
And it is worthy of that attention. Sabbath, Can, Kyuss and Neu! are some of the reference points that light up on my mental music map. Mother Of Six are pretty unique for up here. Their Welsh soulmates would be the likes of the aforementioned Suns Of Thunder and Zonderhoof. Might be time for a couple of gig swaps. Probably not in this venue, though.
I Am Austin are a two-piece from Connah's Quay (drums, synth pad and vox: Mitch; super distorted bass, pedals and synth: Adam) who have earned the patronage of Radio 1, Channel 4 (Evo Music Rooms) and ME! I know which they're proudest of. But that hasn't stopped me from coming to see them anyway.
I Am Austin
Seeing them for the first time in Telfords is probably a mistake, though. If ever a band were perfect for creating an unholy whirlwind through the nation's darkest and dingiest venues, it's I Am Austin. There are no troughs in their sound, no concessions to dynamics. They're Loudness War personified, a waveform that has been flattened at +12dB. And if it annoys you, granddad, then that's the point, isn't it? Mother Of Six would have had the 40-something music people who more frequently populate Telfords on a weekday night nodding along in approval, reminiscing about Hawkwind at Glastonbury when there wasn't a fence and you could get free milk. I Am Austin would have those self-same heads shaking, tutting, complaining about 'noise' and it not being 'proper music', utterly unaware of the irony in what they were saying.
I thought it was thrilling and clever. Loud/quiet is such an over-used trope, anyway. Best to be loud/more loud/louder still/loud with a slightly different bass distortion/then, to end, loud with clanking sounds from drum synth pads.
There are songs here. And there are more dynamics than I'm letting on. I'm using my own verbal Loudness War to hammer home a point.
The track that really stands out, though, is the one that starts off relatively quietly with two-fingered synth chords before hurrying into some DFA, drum'n'bass meltdown that demonstrates once the happy fury of youth has subsided, slightly, this band will have extra special ideas - and a unique approach - to take us all to new, fascinating places.
And they're unlikely to do a duet with Alison Krauss on Jools Holland. Your opinion of them will be in direct proportion to how much of a good thing you think that is.
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