A fusion of musical influences permeating chiming guitar licks, Getintothis’ Nick Lodge loses his suede jacket.
“Play ‘We are the Pigs’.”
The call comes midway through Trans‘ set, slightly disconcerting the slight, disturbingly youthful singer/guitarist. He manages to brush the heckle aside, though, and plough on with his latest creations, a heady concoction of garage psychedelia, motorik grooves, hints of Neil Young and Television, and yes, his former band Suede, the band’s protagonists’ poppish sensibilities never far from the surface.
For Trans is guitar legend Bernard Butler‘s latest venture. Together with Jackie McKeown, formerly of 1990s and the Yummy Fur (which also featured members of Franz Ferdinand at various points), they appear to have bonded over shared musical tastes. Butler produced the last 1990s album, most likely the meeting point for these indie scene veterans.
Plank live at The Shipping Forecast
Manchester’s Plank opened the night with a collection of epic soundscapes in search of a film to soundtrack. For three unassuming blokes who look as though they’d prefer to be playing in their dressing gowns and slippers in someone’s bedroom they make a big, tuneful noise, synthesised melodies weaving through multi-layered guitars. That film would be a blast.
Butler will always struggle to escape his past, which isn’t surprising when you consider he was lead guitarist and songwriter with one of the brightest, bravest and ultimately revered bands of the nineties, but in McKeown he may have found someone to help him shake off those shackles as they embrace each other’s record collections.
Bernard Butler of Trans live at The Shipping Forecast
Dressed in t-shirts and jeans, the band make a low-key entrance, and it’s hard to believe we’re in the presence of a bona fide gee-tar hero, the man who was widely tipped to follow Johnny Marr as the next great indie axemeister. But here he is, back playing pub cellars, and the crowd move forward expectantly, as they open with a song celebrating good times. Butler‘s voice is a little tentative, and perhaps not yet his strongest tool, but the instruments lead the way, with a tight groove.
Next up, Butler and McKeown remind us of their pop lineage, with jangling, squealing guitars guiding us through a hook-laden pop song, culminating in a minor wig out, just to remind us that Trans are not just another indie-pop band.
The next song tips its hat at Neil Young with some spidery soloing from Butler, which is either thrilling or boring depending on your point of view. For me, thrilling. At one point, though, a little further into the set, Butler suggests it’s easy to get carried away, and Mckeown deserves credit for acting as a counterweight to Butler‘s more self-indulgent impulses.
His playing, skittish but with chiming clarity, may not be quite as effortless as his partner, but it gives structure to the songs. He clearly enjoys playing with Butler, though, and his regular glances across the stage betray a determination not to be left flailing in Butler‘s wake.
Trans live at The Shipping Forecast
Butler, for his part, rarely gives McKeown a second glance, so comfortable is he in his ability. Hints of the Beatles and sixties garage emerge as the set progresses, and the band relax (special mention to the bass player in the Sweden t-shirt, who pulls off the half-cut gap year student look with casual, giddy aplomb, never missing a beat).
One song is introduced as “the stupid song“, the type Butler claims he used to write. By stupid I think he means pop, but knowing your way round a decent riff and melody is cause for celebration not deprecation.
The aforementioned banter with the audience threatens to dampen confidence a little, but McKeown is there to pick up the verbal slack when Butler confesses to ‘clearing the room‘ at last year’s Psychfest and is non-plussed by a heckle of ‘why should we stay?’, and they’re back in the groove for their final couple of tracks.
Butler and McKeown duel away, with the former Suede man dazzling with some killer arpeggios before casually flexing his muscles and transcending his Television addiction.
Trans are a work in progress, but have the musical chops and chequered histories to be more than just a transient project. They leave with a modest ‘thanks for coming…thanks for staying.’
This time we were never going anywhere.
Pictures by Getintothis‘ Simon Lewis
Further reading on Getintothis:
NME Awards Tour: Interpol, Temples, Royal Blood, Circa Waves: O2 Academy, Liverpool
Mellowtone cook up series of intimate gems including I Am Kloots John Bramwell.
Parquet Courts set for Liverpool summer outing at Kazimier.
Brian Jonestown Massacre to decamp in East Village Arts Club.
Andrew WK to party hard in Liverpool’s East Village Arts Club.
Liverpool Psych Fest 2013 review, picture gallery and final thoughts
Top 10: Suede
Johnny Marr: O2 Academy, Liverpool
Liverpool’s gig calendar 2014: Guide to essential gigs not to miss in the first third