Venue - The 13th Note, Glasgow
Date - Thursday, 11th March 2010
Line-Up - The Alchonauts, The Cellophanes, The Cemetery Girls
Rising from the ashes of The Terrors (http://www.myspace.com/theterrorsuk) comes The Cemetery Girls, an all-girl punk group mixing in various styles from horror-pop to Grease-esque 50's rock. This, their debut show, was as strong a foundation as any from which to grow a band upon.
Featuring a solid 7-song length performance, with titles as atmospheric as Necropolis, Bad Girl, Dark As The Ocean, Female Dracula and The Watcher, the band performed a strong, confident set that, while still needing some additional work that will come with practice and performance (ie some extra bass notes, more cymbal work, the little things), was more than enough to convert everyone within hearing distance into a fan. The main core of vocalist Elaine and guitarist/vocalist Tina is a powerful combination, working best in tandem than seperately - in particular, the bloodcurdling screams of Tine complement perfectly the more femininely aggressive vocals of Elaine.
The final two songs of their set were easily their best - 60's cover "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (notable for being the first all-female perfomance to reach US #1) was a strong and pointed performance, equal parts respectable to the original and decidely theirs. Set finale, The Watcher, is a delight, particularly the 'storytelling' breakdown which, if anything, could do with being lengthened, a la Battle Of Mice's "Sleep And Dream" or Gorillaz's "Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey's Head".
All in all, this was a great performance and one you wouldn't have believed was a first for a new band.
My upcoming "2009 In Review" postings will name tonight's venue, The 13th Note, as simultaneously one of the best and also worst venues in Glasgow. Tonight, nothing had changed - the opening times are still sporadic and ever-changing, the sound quality flips periodically from intimate to awful and the atmosphere in general is welcoming, but not overly so.
In that same Review, I name The Cellophanes as my pick for band of 2009 and band to watch in 2010, and here is where you will find some definite changes. The young, raw, likeable-yet-amateurish pop-punk band of yester-year is gone, only to be replaced with a more professional, maturer, stronger band that simply defies genre. The 'younger brother' of the Glasgow punk scene has been replaced with this 'older brother' outfit, carving out their own name and genre. It is telling that, while last year The Cellophanes opened several times for Cemetery Girl's Tina and Mary-Kate's The Terrors, 2010's touring schedule kicks off with a bout of gigs in which The Cemetery Girls will be opening for The Cellophanes.
Upcoming 13th Note Gigs
Wed 7th April - The Cellophanes, Scragfight, The Cemetery Girls
How To Make A Monster Cd launch
The Murderburgers Cd launch
All three gigs listed above are well worth checking out, but for now, back to the present. Following a brief a cappella introduction lampooning "In The Jungle", The Cellophanes launch into the strongest performance of "Don't Wanna Be Retarded" to date, wherein the first thing that grabs you is just how solid and improved the drumming has become. The 13th Note is traditionally a venue for The Cellophanes to test out just how fast they can perform, squeezing as many songs into their set as possible, and tonight is no exception. Whilst in the past this would result in an understandable drop in quality, if anything the speed tonight only showcases just how on form the band have become, with no noticeable mistakes or hiccups in places where previously there would have been at least three! This shared sense of impeccable timing continues on throughout a set that includes a confident performance of "Why Don't You Like Me" that is so full of charisma and swagger, you almost expect the instruments to grow arms and begin playing by theirselves.
Next up is typical set highlight "Weekend Girl". For once, the poor sound of The 13th Note simply doesn't matter - all three members have grown stronger as singers, making the lyrics incredibly easy to make out (which is an absolute must for a band that rely heavily on the catchiness of their songs) and the vocal harmonies pitch perfect. The speed begins to take its toll on the usually vicious bite of the guitar riffs, but conversely, Sean's bass lines seem to have conjured up a few extra notes!
New song "This Guy I Know" shows off perfectly the differences between old Cellophanes and new Cellophanes. Where old Cellophanes would have crafted a decent intro that began with a solo guitar riff slowly being built upon by the bass and drums, culminating into the song proper, new Cellophanes simply burst straight into all three playing as unit, a feat that involves timing that borders on telepathic.
A calm and collected version of "Wasting My Time" follows, with the strong vocals again on show, allowing the brilliant lyrics to shine through. With "Don't Forget Me" we again get to see the differences between the band of last year and the band of present - Johnny makes one slight mistake with the drumming, something which previously would have brought the set to a grinding halt while the band made self-deprecating jokes and apologies before attempting to restart. Tonight however, the minor incident is instead glossed over professionally and the band simply get on with it without acknowledging anything and steamroll through the song with great skill.
As for the song itself, whether an intentional improvement or simply an ad hoc sublminal chanelling of The Cemetery Girls, benefits from a new vibe straight out of the 60's. An incredible new breakdown is showcased, and there is only one way to describe the band at this point - this is no longer The Cellophanes, this is THE CELLOPHANES A+++!!!
Anothing new song is introduced next with typical Cellophanes humour - "this song's called Don't Haud Yer Breath, which means... don't haud yer breath!" - and features three new directions The Cellophanes could move towards. First, Sean's vocals are clearly more raspy and angrier than before, giving the band a slightly grunge feel. Second, the song teases with what is almost a great, jazzy, syncopated beat, but this is sadly a mere hint. Third, late in the song a slight sense of metal begins to shine through. As always, the song is best served when all three sing in unison, or when Sean and Stewart trade a back-and-forth, call-and-response delivery, remniscent of any great band that features two frontmen. Thankfully, all these elements combine in this new song, providing something that is equal parts new and old, and all parts awesome.
Set cloest is a Cellophanes staple, their cover of The Ramon's "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg". By this point, both band and audience are riding on a jubilant high, and it shows in the fast and frantic delivery. Everyone is performing at full speed and skill, with Sean's basswork in particular impressing. It is all wrapped up neatly with Johnny performing a much awaited drum solo outro.
Three things combined to make this simply THE best Cellophanes gig to date. First, it was a great event - good bands, good audience, good venue (despite its shortcomings, The 13th Note IS a good venue) and good atmosphere. Second, the song selection - the 'fat' has been trimmed from The Cellophanes setlist, most prominently with the frantic "Bonzo" being chosen as set closer over the slower "Stiches On My Brain". This resulted in everyone leaving with the best possible impression of The Cellophanes at their strongest. (Also a nice touch, the band began and ended the set with the only two songs that mention the word 'cellophane' in their lyrics!) Finally, and most importantly, pure work ethic. The band have clearly become more skilled, both individually and as a group, over such a short period of time. It amazes me that this is still a band in its infancy, and I can't wait to see what they have in store for the future. Like genre stalwarts Green Day, they have launched themselves from a strong, stable, pop-punk platform and are now branching off into other genres and sounds. Hopefully, one day in the future, we might get to see The Cellophanes perform in stadiums too.
As much as they are their own bands that defy pigeon-holing in many respects, both The Cemetery Girls and The Cellophanes could loosely be described as punk. The Alchonauts, however, cannot realistically be defined by a genre, and their placement on this set miffed quite a few in the crowd. Beginning almost intentionally awful, almost as if to goad the crowd into leaving, it soon becomes apparent that this Fife outfit are a different breed of band, one that is effortlessly talented and simply don't mind whether you notice it or not.
Unlike most bands of their undefined ilk, The Alchonauts seem genuinely appreciative and engaging with their audience. Between songs, lead singer Theo addresses the audience, breaking the hypnotic, haunting, almost harrowing hold that their doom-laced dance noise death-ska, in short incredibly indescribable, music has on the listener. Such random outburts include "this is Another Song About Drinking", "this is A Song For Sleazebags" and "this song is Horrible" serving to sow a general sense of bewilderment as their mixture of self-deprecation, confusion and genuine song-titles blur together, leaving one wondering whether the band actually want to be here, or whether they are playing some cosmic practical joke on the rest of the room and having the time of their lives in the process.
Either way, the music speaks for itself. Effortlessly mixing in aspects and influences from Rage Against The Machine, Primus, Biffy Clyro, Enter Shikari and System Of A Down, all of these names and more race through the mind as you experience The Alchonauts, however none of them quite stick. The band simply pick and choose elements from everything, and piece them together to make one manic, unique and whole experience, held together by an incredibly bored looking keyboardist, whose one-note-wonder element is betrayed by his effortless jams of classical music between songs.
His image betrays the complete joy and fun that is found in the running undercurrent of the band, again making you feel as though there is something larger at play that the rest of us just aren't privy to understanding. It's like listening to Coheed & Cambria without the knowledge that the entire band is one huge conceptual performance.
From a technical point of view, everything is superb. The keyboards are necessarily restrained, the drums and bass make a potent combination, the guitar work is wonderfully schizophrenic and the singing is crisp and clear, packed full of excitement and danger. However, beneath the shallow exterior of songs about the backseats of cars and emptying your friedge because you got too 'wasted', beats the heart of a different band.
Roughly halfway through the set, the lineup changes, with bassist Dr G assuming vocal duties, singer/guitarist Theo taking on the drums, and drummer Billy taking on the guitar. This new line-up, simply put, works. What follows is a heartfelt, genuine rendition of a song about sorrow, regret and self-blame. Dr G is a wonderful singer, and it is a show-stopping moment in a maniacily non-stop set that causes the entire room to pause and reflect. All too soon, we are back to the wonderful, humourous and equally as entertaining original lineup, but there is a sense of wonderment in the air as everyone in the crowd ponder what the band would sound like with Dr G's vocals incorporated even further.
As it stands, this band are an incredible and unique force in the Glasgow scene. One song, for instance, sounds like the mutant cousin of The Cellophane's "Don't Wanna Be Retarded", another sounds like a ska band attempting black metal, and a third sounds like fellow Fife musician, folk singer King Creosote, leading an alien invasion into the heart of Scotland. Weird, wonderful, and utterly compelling.
The Cemetery Girls - 7th April @ The 13th Note, 14th May @ The Dreadnought (Bathgate), 17th May @ Stereo, 6th August in Nottingham, 7th August in Derby, 14th August in Edinburgh
The Cellophanes - 7th April @ The 13th Note, 18th April @ Three Tuns (Durham, England), 24th April @ The 13th Note, 5th May @ The 13th Note
The Alchonauts - 4th May @ PJ Malloys (Dunfermline)