Annabel Allum, Vinyl Staircase, Courting, Gazelle: Studio 2, Liverpool

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Annabel Allum

Annabel Allum on a cold Monday night, a sparse crowd and a strange mix of the good, the bad and the ugly greeted Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald for this gig at Studio 2. 

It started so well.

As Annabel Allum came to the Studio 2 stage, backed by an astonishingly good rhythm section and ploughed straight on with a jagged, snarling version of Eat Greens, It had all the makings of a great set, even given the fact that the crowd had thinned considerably to a mere handful. Allum writes good songs, edgy and urgent, twisted and stretched vocals, and honest self-critical lyrics.

We know that. That’s why we were there.

Something was missing on this cold Monday night though. Something apart from the crowd, that is. There was hit. And there was miss.

It all felt a little uneven and unresolved. Sofa Song, for instance, strapped around a big groove, is a great noise. But. It’s not just that these songs don’t go anywhere, it feels more of a case of them not actually wanting to go anywhere. Allum pulls out all the stops when she’s performing too, forcing the guitar lines into pleasingly uncomfortable noises, and almost sneering her vocals. The hooks are thin on the ground, though. And we need hooks. 

Yet, in songs like Rich Backgrounds, a great slam of a song which finds her intensely railing against people with self entitled privilege, there’s hooks aplenty. A heavy punch of a chorus, all fuzzed, insistent guitar.

It’s as sleazy and self confident as the people it holds in its crosshairs, and was an absolute highlight of the set. Similarly, Beat The Birds which looms in the grey moments of early daylight. It’s a dark, dark throb of a song. A moody, oppressive sound centred around the perfect riff of Allum’s guitar and that pin sharp, lead-heavy rhythm section. 

Maybe it was the small crowd, maybe she don’t like Mondays, but something was missing. Whatever it is, we hope she finds it again soon. 

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The combination of Liverpool’s naff public transport system and the fact that the gig was early doors meant that we missed what we were later told was a superb Gazelle set. Or another superb Gazelle set, rather. 

We did, unfortunately, manage to catch a ‘band’ – and we’re using that word in its loosest possible definition – called Courting. Simply put, some people shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a stage.

Their sound, as much as they had one, can best be likened to the noise you’d hear by pushing their instruments down a staircase. Of course, that would have been a far more agreeable idea than what they chose to do with them.

Their frontman, so giddily excited at the very idea of fronting what he obviously believed to be a band, seems to have forgotten to learn how to tune his guitar. That said, his frothing exuberance and staggering self belief was truly something to behold. Such optimism, such hope, such absolute delusion.

Courting are young. They have time. They don’t have any songs to speak of, but they have time. Let’s just hope they have a rehearsal room too. Otherwise, they stand a very good chance of never having to bother us again. 

Once you get past the somewhat dodgy moniker of Vinyl Staircase, you find yourself in the presence of greatness and beauty. This Guilford four piece, Allum’s tour support, bring a wildly eclectic set of influences to bear on their sparky, energetic sound. Talking Heads, Big Star, the glam of Bolan, early Cure, and Felt all play their part. Instant, powerful and heavy pop, dripping with hooks and oozing class.

Much deserving of a bigger stage. What a find. 

Images by Getintothis’ Ian Flanders

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