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OOTB 312 – 4 Sep 2008

In the mean time, last week saw our long-awaited return. Here’s how that shit went down.

OOTB312

Calum Carlyle, Fraser, Machar Granite, Broken Tooth, Two Carved Stones (Featured Act), Nyk Stoddart, Ben Young, Colin Milne, John, Chris.

Calum Carlyle ‘Living Proof’ is a genius ode to those smelly, hairy people…yes, the hippies. Calum is in danger of becoming a comedy performer, but on this evidence, that may not be so bad. ‘Superglue’, talking of the inseparability of those in love, is more metaphor than Farrelly brother’s silliness. Thank goodness. He backs it up with some heavy riffing. He ends with perennial favourite, ‘The sound of falling in love at first sight’, which I’ve decided to call ‘The Sofilafs,’ in moment of over-excited acronymisation. The song is good, too. There’s a string orchestra in my head.

Fraser He lets us know after his first that it was meant to be uplifting, and I’m glad he did – I thought lines like ‘I keep on walking towards the light’ were about near death experiences. He then brings out the Parisian hobo in all of us with a take on life on the streets that is fiercely finger-clickingly funky. ‘It don’t mean a thing without a dog on a string.’ He ends with a humourous but compassionate look at inner city depravation. It is harsh enough to make ‘Shameless’ look like ‘Dallas’ – ‘battery acid smeared on a tricycle.’

Machar Granite I never tire of Eddie’s stuff. Although the lyrics could be about anywhere, they feel unmistakably rooted in rural Scotland, and are all the better for it. This is in small part down to him singing in his own accent, but more than that, melody and performance build a mood which transports the listener. On ‘Cost them dear’, he sings ‘The kids standing at the monument have no idea.’ His second is supposedly an electronica track in the making. The fact that his acoustic arrangement is already something most of us would be delighted with is testament to the quality of the writing. His last, saying there’s ‘something lurking under the water’, is minor, moody, and menacing. I think it’s about the oil industry.

Broken Tooth ‘For too long I’ve been chasing my tail.’ Maybe he means ‘tale’, because Tooth’s lyrics veer between Nietzsche and Nashville. This one, though, is actually a fairly conventional ballad, with a good deal less philosophy or yelping. I think it benefits. ‘Mojo Ham’, supposedly about Hoodoo, brings us back into more familiar gothic blues. But there’s always time for some heavy prog rock to finish. This is my favourite by a long shot – it just shows way more ambition and originality. ‘My head is spinning’, he whoops. He’s not the only one.

Two Carved Stones (Featured Act) Following a fine showing at the Fringe, it’s a pleasure to have these guys playing. Johnny and Chris Pugh have only recently begun writing songs together, but you wouldn’t know, mostly down to the sheer number of hours they’ve clocked up performing since. They begin, fittingly, with ‘Starting Blocks.’ Harsh lyrics being sung sweetly is effective – ‘with daggers in my eyes, and a look that could kill, I’ll be waiting for you,’ on ‘Don’t You Dare’, and ‘I’m bruising your body,’ on ‘Alias’, stand out. Difficult subjects are wrapped in music which makes them more digestible. On ‘Rubix Cube’, the harmonies rise above a rich guitar. It builds and builds, and it’s a relief, perfectly timed, when they drop the tempo for ‘Don’t Panic’. On this, they layer harmonics and harmonies until the sound is consuming. ‘On Fire’ washes over us. It’s a recollective tale of the finest times of a love lived – ‘the way you loved me then,’ and it finishes the set on a positive note. A class act – look out for more from these guys in the future.

Nyk Stoddart I’ve never seen this before. Nyk is one of our most regular acts, which has honed his performance to the point where he was the Featured Act not long ago. He is known and loved for his charismatic, haphazard and simply loud sets. But tonight, he offers an altogether more peaceful character. ‘Quell’ is serene and meditative – ‘Surrounded by trees’. It is so gentle, I almost think he’ll break into hard rawk any second. But ‘Even Now’ continues the theme, featuring quiet introspection. ‘Lamplight’ finishes the set, with chiming 60s folk country – ‘Girl got the blues down to the floor.’ Honestly, it will take some time for both Nyk and the audience to grow into this style, and his voice arguably suits the louder stuff more, but its still good to see someone attempt to expand their genre.

Ben Young Having been the most vocally encouraging member of the audience all night, the room is well aware of him before he takes to the stage. His songs, by contrast, are delicate and subdued. ‘There’s a pile-up on the motorway,’ opens ‘Leicester Forest East’, which talks of escapism, ‘I left the car and walked away.’ Whether it was there or not, I took an ambiguity between this being his imagination or actual happenings. ‘England-land’, on the other hand, clearly does paint a mythical country where he falls in love, but there is the suggestion that the girl comes second to the country in the admiration stakes. ‘Bottle-bottomed specs’ is a brutal telling of a relationship unravelling – ‘You look at me through your bottle-bottomed specs; looking for proof that I still love you.’ Its harshness has definitely had an impact on my lyrical output. Ben is Featured Act this week – don’t miss the chance to see a full set from him.

Colin Milne Colin is arguably just as harsh, but only for the sake of humour. Having only started writing upon his retiral, his lyrics play mostly on the funny side of growing old(er). As it is with ‘Separate Bedroom Blues’ – ‘What I saw is what I used to know’. ‘Klesterol’ (yes, he spells it like that) takes on the impact of bad diet on a relationship – ‘as back tae yer wumman ye crawl!’ This is another performer who has benefited hugely from more performances. Audiences are now enthralled and appalled in equal measure – he looks a far nicer chap than his lyrics belie. ‘Old Bugga’ is a fine example. ‘Maybe when I’m dead, I’ll be glad.’

John It’s just as well that John chooses to write stuff that uses his voice properly, because he’s got impressive range and power. He soars on lines like ‘If it makes it better, I’ll turn my head and walk away.’ His style hits hard American rock, and his lyrics are generally on the dark side – ‘Things will turn bad outside’ – so its surprising that this, his second song, is fairly uplifting. His third, however, is full of menace – ‘Get out, run now.’ And his opening line is a cracker – ‘Come in, leave your soul at the door.’

Chris Almost a debut, but he’s played a wee while ago, Chris spends the first five minutes assembling an array, the like of which I’ve never seen. We’ll wait for the third song before all is revealed. He sings in a Scottish accent, and evokes memories like sepia film – ‘scrape my knees and tear my clothes.’ He changes time elegantly, into what I think is a new song, but turns out to be a lengthy coda. In fact, each of his songs evolve similarly, and it’s debatable whether such formats suit a short set, but in themselves, they are no doubt enthralling. Best lyric on his second: ‘There’s nothing worse than losing touch, when it works as well as us.’ His final song is all bells (as that’s what the apparatus turns out to be) and whistles. ‘You’re knitting a scarf,’ he sings. It’s about knitting a scarf, I think. We want more.

Sound: Dave O’Hara, Review+Compere: Rob Sproul-Cran

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