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The War Against Intelligence

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April 2006

Ryan Adams

review from The Herald, 16 Febraury 2006

Ryan Adams, Carling Academy, Glasgow

Some ninety minutes into this largel solo, uniformly indulgent set, something finally connects Ryan Adams with his muse and hitherto concealed talent, and a version of 'Rescue Blues' emerges that provides the first satisfying moment of a particularly arid event.

A mixture of mid-70s Rolling Stones and peak period Elton John, it is one of a handful of songs in Adams' repertoire where he manages to emulate, or even, surpass his heroes.

Reaching this point, however, is a slow tortuous process. With an audience willing to tolerate most of his many excesses, the first set is a loose, messy concoction that, on occasion, hints at greatness, but most frequently delivers abject mediocrity.

He promises depressing songs and delivers 'Don't Get Sentimental on Me' and 'Everything Dies.' For someone who has released three albums in the last 12 months to be introducing such new material suggests either a surplus of creativity, or more likely, the lack of a good editor.

The show appears to comprise mainly half-baked musical ideas supplemented by rambling, mumbled monologues about car sickness, pies and the odour eminating from his socks. In the right hands, it could be intimate and amsuing, but here is grates. Breaks are required for smoking, drinking and phone calls, when the real interval arrives it is something of a relief.

The second half begins with more dallying before he is told in no uncertain terms to by at least one heckler to play some songs. This seems to act as something of a wake up call: a move from guitar to piano and the appearance of some his best material makes for a marked improvement, albeit with insufficient conviction to retrieve the situation or fully re-engage an audience willing to accept whatever scraps oif quality and value they can from the ticket investment.

The polite applause in an anticipation of an encore is sadly reflective of what has gone before – an obtuse, random show that is more endurance than performance. Those charged with imposing the venue's 11p.m. curfew were repsonsible for one  of the few tasks of the evening performed with a degree of conviction, otherwise Adams would probably still be playing. 

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Jo Mango

Glasgow based songwriter launches debut album – review from The Herald
Jo Mango

King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow

The howl of feedback at the start of ‘Portuguese Skies’ – the last song on her recently released album, ‘Paperclips and Sand’ and the first in this album launch set, makes for an incongruous moment.

It sits uncomfortably with the prevailing tone of the evening, which is one of quiet, gently introspective songs performed by a rotating cast of musicians and backed by some excellent short films and animations. 

Even on the few occasions when she is backed by a fairly traditional rock line up, songs like ‘Blue Light’ shimmer rather than ignite, highlighting an underlying caution in the writing and arrangements that detracts a little from the warmth of the performance.

For all the stage clutter, it is the simplest arrangements that are most effective. Using only her acoustic guitar and Katherine Waumsley’s flute, ‘Take Me Back’ is prettily nostalgic.

‘Harlow 1959,’ (solo with guitar) and ‘My Lung’ (solo with marimba) are the most rounded and evocative parts of the entire show, and while the other players all contribute as expertly as would be expected from a group drawn from an ‘Applied Music’ course, there is something distracting about the number of permutations used that suggests an indecision as to what exactly is the best way to present the songs.

Mango’s voice is soft but clear and sits comfortably alongside the likes of Karine Polwart and Kathryn Williams, sharing their ability to transcend boundaries between traditional and pop forms, but offering a more reserved and becalming approach than either.

‘Paperclips and Sand’ is a fine collection of songs, but Mango is still an artist gaining the life and stage experience to turn them into great ones. Expect her third or fourth album to be her masterpiece.

1990s, Bricolage

review of 1990s and Bricolage, originally appeared in The Herald.

1990s, Bricolage
Glasgow University Union, Glasgow

Though the young and predominantly female audience may be oblivious to the fact, and both bands are being talked up as the future, this is a show that is lodged in the correct postcode (G12) but twenty-six years too late.

Bricolage share management with the reconstituted Fire Engines, while 1990s dedicate a song to Orange Juice’s James Kirk. The studied cool of the former suggests a more than passing acquaintance with the works of the Subway Sect, and though the sound is familiar, there is a panache about the delivery and sense of timing that suggests their moment, while yet to come, is fairly imminent.

Sharing the patronage of Franz Ferdinand, 1990s may lack Bricolage’s fresh-faced charm (they are veterans of The Yummy Fur, Mars Hotel, V-Twin and a range of other outfits that have battled either critical or public indifference for over a decade), but they do not have to wait for their moment.

With songs as sharp as the opening ‘You’re Supposed To Be My Friend’ they are able to use the three-piece format to maximum effect, harmonies and discordant guitar lines scattered over the tightest, most concise pop songs around.

If it is the sheer catchiness that marks them out from their previous ventures, then there is also a change of lyrical outlook. The wide range of references is still present (Ladytron is juxtaposed with Lady Di) but the prevailing tone is upbeat and hedonistic.

‘Weed’ and ‘Enjoying Myself’ are indicative, mixing Beefheart and the Glitter Band, The Fire Engines and Duran Duran, fuelled by a cocktail of cheap drugs.

It all makes for a heady, transitory thrill. Whether 1990s will achieve the success they deserve, or combust in glorious failure is harder to ascertain. Either way, it should make for an exhilarating journey.

 

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