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OOTB 306 – 19 June 2008

OOTB 306 – 19.06.08
Nigel Ashworth, Pol Arida, Miss Fi, Broken Tooth, Colin, Mick and Jeff, Nyk Stoddart, Ross Neilson, Calum Carlyle, Al and Al, Francis Hayes, Susanna MacDonald, Rob Sproul-Cran

Nigel Ashworth I’ve been here four times, so it feels like home,   he says. Poor man, he’s only been home four times! Must keep getting locked out or something. His first, ‘For real’ is earnest and honest, hard and minor. Are you ready for my real?   he sings. He could mean ‘reel’, but I don’t see much dancing going on. I guess we weren’t ready for it. ‘Standing on the rocks’ has the guitar rhythmically mimicking the vox nicely. Evocative fantasy, when I was Captain of the starship, I saved the world.   ‘Stereo’ is fast and empowering, why live in Mono, when the world is in Stereo?   When he starts singing about stereo love,   though, the mind boggles.

Interesting fact #1: Mono   is Spanish for Monkey.

Pol Arida ‘Where the birds fall’ (not ‘burds’, mind, this isn’t Subway Cowgate now, people) Actually, I didn’t catch any of the words, so maybe that’s exactly what it’s about. Starts funky; goes punky. ‘The death bed song’ follows. In high vox, he sings I’ll see your face, when I sleep alone.   It is distinctive and pulsing, though with the muted hard rock, I can’t imagine it being sung at a death bed. ‘Catch the wind’ is about guilt for poverty. It’s pretty harsh stuff, no-one is there for you now.   Pol has a trademark tapping method for playing guitar. This is no doubt effective, but with all his songs played like that, you wonder whether they would stand up to being played straight. It would be like turning Edge’s effects box off.

Miss Fi We were taken in by your impish grin.   Of whom this speaks, I do not know, but it feels familiar. It’s light and bouncy with staccatos on the verses. ‘False again’ is beautiful and soft, in 6/8 time. If I’ve been with other men, I’ve always thought of you.   Quietly affecting, it gets pin-drop silence. In contrast, ‘Dancing Bears’ is a rousing little number about office monotony. Karen helps on harmonies from the back. Catchy and memorable.

Interesting fact #2: Frank Oz, who voiced Fozzie Bear in the Muppets, appears in The Blues Brothers as a prison guard.

Broken Tooth in 2005

Broken Tooth in 2005

Broken Tooth ‘Title Song’ belies his usual blues lean, with time signatures liberally draped all over the place, but the intellectual musings mean it’s lyrically familiar, power is an illusion  . Good hooks, though. ‘Riding on the rails’ is back to blues. Gonna find me a sweet, little Creole woman, when I get back to New Orleans   Yes, we could all do with one of them, but I haven’t been New Orleans, and I’m not sure he has either. I don’t know why I believe Robert Plant more when he sings that sort of thing, I doubt he’s ever seen a levee, but for BT there’s a lyrical honesty that, for the minute, doesn’t match up to the impassioned delivery. ‘Hold Fast’ is a rampant sea-faring epic, like if Admiral Nelson did death metal.

Interesting fact #3: John Lee Hooker was not actually a hooker.

Colin He prefers to perform sans microphone, so he can freely address the crowd (and read his lyrics). We begin with an encounter with a vagabond and his muckle Alsatian.   More than that I didn’t catch, but the hearty laughs suggest top-notch lyrics. He follows with a tear-jerker, and our second (see Pol) song of the night about the loss of a lifetime companion. When you’re gone, can I call you?   Pretty moving. Colin’s trick is to sing the unexpected, as he does with his last one. He’s four score and some, so singing ’tis our delight on a Saturday night, to neck a load of beer   and as I took up with a wenching   is warmly comic. Cracking.

Mick and Jeff Blues for two. Catchy melodies and intermittent harmonies produce a set it’s near impossible not to smile to. What price do I pay when love drifts away forever?   The camaraderie is the real draw here. Further proof, if any were needed after Colin, of the youth-giving properties of song. Their second continues the lost-love theme, Who’s left to pick up the pieces?   (Average White Band, anyone?) From the jaunty but melancholy, we head for good ole blues, carried with authenticity, and an altogether more uplifting air, Do you remember me? It’s your baby boy back on the scene.   Hope they stay on this scene.

Nyk Stoddart ‘Another Song’ features some of the most feverish and pounding acoustic guitar you’re likely to hear. Basking in his ironies, Nyk is overflowing with confidence, and some sight to see. ‘Fake Jazz’ is a deft critique, too many diminished chords  , which only works because he’s actually quite good. The only way to take the piss is to do it better than the original. I think he gets there. ‘Gimp boy’ (no explanation needed) has people weeping. I think it was from laughter. Nyk is getting to the point that total strangers will get the joke.

Ross (Leslie) Neilson The Zen schoolteacher is making steady improvement in both his vocal quality and his onstage confidence. I’d like to see Ross do a comedy number, because his stuff at the minute verges on the serious. He reels out countless licks, but I couldn’t hum one now, and I do wonder backing from a full band would help with that and the overall impact. The other thing is, I’m sure there’s plenty of creative originality in his head, but when we have to fill in the blanks, I just end up humming Oasis or The Verve again. I’m pleased to see fingerpickin on his last, though, ‘Lock and Key’.

Calum Carlyle Wins the silly-tie competition hands down. Skillful pick-work brings out ‘One Hit Wonder’, which extols the virtues of ripping off other songs, but succeeds through the irony of being strongly original itself, the words were blowing and I picked them up.   His second, ‘Dreaming of you’, is about a girl he was yet to meet, which he dedicates to his (now) girlfriend. But then he’d have to, really. ‘The sound of falling in love at first sight’ is a good choice, if only because writing the title takes up half the word count for each review. You see, I’ve no space left to write about it. It’s very good.

Al and Al Can you be too good? There’s a great interplay between this guitar and bass duo, melodies on both instruments intertwining, but it feels like they would be as proficient even if no-one was listening. Because of this, and the late hour, the audience starts to drift off. If they were to cock an ear, though, they’d be treated to a honey bass voice that’s used as a tenor, and beautiful flourishes and harmonics on guitar. They finish with ‘Trees’, which is a love song to the aforementioned. Not in that way, though. Well, I hope not. Anyway, its seriously impressive stuff, hope they come back.

Francis Hayes A wee squashee tonight, with ‘Go go go.’ This one highlights his vocal impact and range well, and the boy can sing. It’s about looking for rejection from some object of love already deemed out of his reach. Now then, people, lighters aloft.

Susanna MacDonald This girl doesn’t give half-arsed performances. Tonight she plays ‘Graffiti’, and whilst this doesn’t quite reach the astonishing, psychological meltdown of ‘Buddha the Cyborg’, this is still arresting and compelling. The guitar is positively predatory – it sounds like it’s stalking the vocals down a dark alleyway. Creepy.

Rob Sproul-Cran [Calum Haddow reviewed my stint. Most of you will know from his featured slot last week just how damaged he is. If not, here’s proof]: Rob wore a stunning cravat. Many men wept in a sad mixture of jealousy and impotent rage. He delivered a blistering thrash master-class, often using his feet as a substitute for the deafening double kick pedals that no doubt accompanied the original studio recording. His screams often worried me; the blood vessels in his neck arcing and standing to attention like a jungle of worms above his shoulders. Devastating. it is a fucking tie.   Next up was a small insight into Edinburgh’s hip-hop community. His skillz were setting the place on fire, each output crafter from the illest rhymes this side of Sighthill. He challenged Bill to a rap battle, and really laid down on his behind. Bill’s rep was left in tatters, and Rob came out with little more than a vague sense of disappointment. Oh, and did I mention, tonight’s theme was ‘Ties and Lies.’

This is why you never, never let Calum Haddow do a review for you.

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