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The Twilight Sad / Endor / Kasule

Strathclyde Uni, Glasgow (Thursday 11th February)

By • Feb 16th, 2011 • Category: Gig review

It’s always a bit of a worry when a gig’s rescheduled. The ticket I’m presented with is, apparently, for ‘Dave Pearce’s Xmas Glow Rave’. This show happened (or perhaps, didn’t) last December, undoubtedly planned as something of a winter warmer for the hard-working students.
No, what we’re looking for is a St Andrew’s night gig. Initially postponed due to the travel chaos of late 2010, it’s still easy to see why tonight’s headliners would fit the bill – thickly-accented, and suitably dark for a Scots psyche in winter.

Support comes from the rather more chipper Kasule – though you’d not expect much in the way of the advertised house beats as three guys swathed in darkness take to the stage and power out some doomy, towering chords.
A flickering back projection lays out their stall as the beats kick in – stills of the likes of John Peel, Ivor Cutler and the Ramones, while a lengthy homage to Factory Records provides the backdrop to ‘Christie’, a torrent of marching beats which culminates in a fearsome blast of industrial noise which goes through the unsuspecting audience’s eardrums like a chainsaw through butter. Welcome back, chaps.

Like many student ‘party’ bills, the bands on show offer, well, contrasts. Endor are the bright sparks (and also closer to student age than their predecessors) – lit up for all to see, their tunes are likewise shining and bristling with energy. Employing borrowed brass for the occasion, their off-kilter melodies are less folk than the current mode, but still with an acoustic feel despite the four guitars in use. There’s something that reminds this reviewer of Michael Marra, and yet, a touch of the rock-pop sensibilities of Biffy Clyro. Both compliments, by the way.

There’s one at every gig. The Bloke in the Bogs. The chap who will have a drunken chat with you about how the gig’s going – and of course, give you the inside track on what’s still to come.
The Twilight Sad will, I’m told, be playing three or four new songs. And the next album will herald a change in sound – more synths, and the rare guitars on the record will be ‘clean’.
However, he can’t confirm if they’ll be as loud as ever…

The band take to the stage in levels of darkness compared to Kasule, rather than the megawatts that illuminated Endor previously. And the sound – a low bassy grumble that opens ‘I’m Taking the Train Home’ – is good – TTS shows in the past have been spoiled by poor distorted sound. But tonight everything is, pretty much, perfect. James is oddly compelling; with that habit of standing side-on to the audience, even in pitch dark, he draws the eyes of everyone in the room. He’s surprisingly chatty too, at least compared to the shy and dour character of the past.
He dedicates ‘The Wrong Car’ to Charles and Camilla before the launch into said single, again the sound towering just the right side of distortion.

There are new songs, but not too much evidence of the promised new synth direction here. However, the trademark, all-enveloping sound is still intact. Though there is one unnamed tune which recalls (hold onto your earplugs) early Simple Minds – you know, when they were good, and indeed, when they were making driving, danceable pop. Though that may have been my hearing after years of aural abuse from bands just like this one.

We do get a couple more new tunes, as promised, though the high point is also the show’s climax – a segue of ‘Cold Day In The Birdhouse’ and ‘She Would Darken the Memory’. And if the Simple Minds reference was an uncomfortable one, let’s just say that with an audience mouthing along every word, this would sit nicely at Hampden with Donnie Munro leading the crowd.
Still, even if it’s 10 weeks after, it is St Andrew’s night.

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