Saturday, February 24, 2007

Union of Knives / 35 Seconds / Grandscope / Selotape Birmingham Barfly 22nd February 2007

Union Of Knives...cutting it

The first of four gigs on the bounce. Going Deaf For Four Days anyone (apologies to Pete Ashton for trying to rehash his idea)? No? Just me then. Ok.

Openers Selotape are two bands for the price of one in some ways with their dual vocalists sharing duties, one taking the faster, more discordant guitar pieces and the other the slightly mellower stuff. It works well and enables the group to tackle a much wider range of songs. All in all a solid set that ended by one of the group taping down random keys on their keyboards before leaving the stage in a haze of noise. Other bands take note - it's not just how you start, it's how you finish.

Grandscope were up next and, despite being around for 10 years, this was the first time I'd seen them. Birmingham has always had a solid fringe of more eclectic bands (Broadcast, Misty's Big Adventure and Kate Goes to name just seven...only joking...four) and Grandscope fall into this rather magical category. Grandscope cite bands like Tortoise and Boards of Canada as an influence and I'd agree that they orbit a similar universe. I'd add a touch of Zappa and some Animal Collective too - like I say, magical stuff. It's difficult to write about music like this without coming across as too muso but (here I go, about to go muso on you) Grandscope create often fairly complex musical soundscapes, with distinct layers, anyone of which could form an interesting path of it's own (what the fuck am I on today? Answers on a copy of Wire magazine please). It's a jazz kind of thing, musical abstract, stuff that you can escape into and proof (as if we true believers needed any) that Birmingham has as much to offer the musical world as any city, anywhere. Check out Sunshine if you want an instant hit or Des 'n' Mel if you don't believe me about the musical soundscape bit. Anyway, I'm waffling. To cut a long review short (please god I hear you cry) I loved Grandscope and certainly won't leave it another 10 years to see them again. I suggest you hunt them out and get a dose of the good stuff.

35 seconds are an equally compelling prospect, but an entirely different vibe altogether. Andrew Hickman's a particularly strong vocalist and the songs were every bit as memorable. Dinosaurs sounds like some great lost early 80's classic (the indie Postcard-y bit, not the New Romantic stuff), Grudge Match is like being beaten round the head with a brick, then a pillow (yes, I've been sniffing magic markers again) and then there's stuff like Youth Club (almost jazz funky in places). Class. Why the fuck aren't they famous yet? Where's their NME spread? Should I start a record label and sign them? Hmm, now there's a thought...anyone know anything about starting a record label?

Unlikely to sign to The Hearing Aid Gramophone Company are Union of Knives who are destined (and I'm fairly sure on this one) to become stadium bestriding behemoths. Yes behemoths. I'm not sure that their excellent debut album does them justice. Live they're a lot fuller and pull off that neat treat that Depeche Mode cracked of melding electro sounds with full on rock. One of them has shaved his head so I also couldn't help thinking of Classix Nouveaux at times (for the record one of the unsung bands of the 80's who featured a certain Sal Solo - bald as a baby's bottom), they did a similar thing. The vocals are quite light, not rocky at all, which makes a nice counterpoint. On tracks like Operated On they almost quite a little choral, before a sledgehammer of guitar and electro noise punches back in. Brilliant, quite brilliant live band that would really benefit from and feed off a massive crowd. I wouldn't be surprised if they soon got just that.

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