As Eagulls hit the Kazimier as part of Liverpool Music Week, Getintothis‘ Paul Higham reports on the healthy state of British guitar music.
Many times has the death knell of the guitar band been tolled and its obituaries been written. Commentators are ever keen to point to the decline of such a celebrated music form, highlighting its absence from the hit parade and a lack of airplay on mainstream commercial radio.
As those in the know will be able to testify, reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Too often what is determined to be popular culture is at the whim of the media, its controllers and influencers and, of course, its commercial interests. In spite of this and changing fashions, guitar music has been able to endure. When its death notices are prepared one just has to search that little bit harder to discover the art form.
The reasons for its enduring appeal are broad and many, and tonight at the Kazimier we were reminded of some of those as eminent Leeds post-punkists Eagulls arrived in town.
Where Saturday night was a paean to all things electronica, tonight was definitely a celebration of the power of the guitar and its scope.
To kick things off Americans took to the stage, if only in a metaphorical sense. Eschewing the safety and comfort of the boards, the duo took to the arena floor and played in the back corner on the raised platform underneath the mixing desk.
Americans feature two members of Stig Noise Sound System, with Trippy’s ferociously energetic drumming bringing to mind the work of Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt and Black Pus. This is coupled with looping riffs and a smorgasbord of eletcronic sounds.
It seemed that tonight’s early set was beset by technical difficulties and equipment malfunctions. Or was it? Perhaps it was a ruse to allow for an engagingly improvised set. Either way, it wasn’t to everyone’s satisfaction with one attendee querying ‘is that it?’ as the duo’s allotted time came to an end.
Next up were Sea Witches who overcame a nervous start to deliver a set that became more enjoyable as it progressed. The band showcased a very 80s sound, laced in funk but with definite gothic tones aided by the singer’s aloof and detached vocal delivery, which admittedly might not be to everyone’s tastes.
Set closer, Space Gun, was the standout number. Displaying a more expansive and broader soundstage it provided a platform over which a catchy guitar riff was overlaid and a punchy, foot-tapping beat was crisply delivered. This evolved into a grumbling gothic-noir pop song reminiscent of the earlier tunes. We were promised ‘two for the price of one’ when the song was introduced and it certainly delivered on that score.
Easily the loudest band of the night were We Came Out Like Tigers, a band from Toxteth, who delivered an intense set of growling and howling post-hardcore. There were clear metal influences to their sound, but what stood out was their subtlety and the added dimensions that such bands often lack. Yes, drums were pounded and guitars were played with blistering noise but through it all was a clear sense of melody and tunefulness.
Most impressive were the quieter moments, which brought an almost classical and symphonic quality to proceedings. The delicately picked guitar and the mournfully played violin provided a contrast to the louder moments which, when delivered, came with subsequent and almost violent power.
The band also revealed a political core. Their merchandise, containing imagery of a burning Anglican Cathedral, hinted at the corruptive influence of organised religion while it was suggested by the lead singer that the perceived problems of immigration might be solved by the abolition of geographical and political borders and ensuring a fairer distribution of wealth. It wasn’t clear that the political views were shared by all present but the music was well received.
Headliners, Eagulls, delivered the most compelling set of the night. Emerging on stage to a definite swagger and confidence the band drew in those who had been enjoying the pleasures of the Kazimier’s newly opened Winter Garden. The band delivered a tight and lean set that left the moshing hordes at the front gasping for breath and eager for more.
Songs from their acclaimed eponymous debut album were delivered in rapid fire with barely time to draw one’s breath in between. The tunes are given a new lease of life in the live arena. The vocals seem much more pronounced and the quality of the voice, only hinted at on record, becomes more apparent.
Alluding to the strong influences of bands such as Joy Division and The Cure, the set was a triumph and highlighted how well-honed a live outfit they have become. The drumming in particular was a joy to behold, it drove the songs along with zip and abandon as the guitars and bass provided a rolling rumbling noise behind it.
One criticism (if there has to be one) would be the lack of variety and the tendency of songs to merge into one. With the so-called difficult second album on the horizon, this is something that the band will no doubt look to address. On this showing they certainly have the ability to do so.
Liverpool Music Week and the free shows at the Kazimier continue to impress and prove popular. On the evidence of tonight, and the sheer enthusiasm of the attendees, guitar music remains alive and well.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Saleh.