Monorail’s 10th birthday party, featuring The Pastels, Sacred Paws, Moon Unit and Richard Youngs, at Mono, Glasgow, 9th December.
closing down statement before, that is sadder still). In the shop, just prior to the birthday bash, I was thinking that my recent Monorail haul (Chain and the Gang, Lee Hazlewood, Cults Percussion Ensemble, Movietone) was going to be enough to keep me going for the moment, until Chris cracked open his just-acquired copy of Dep’s latest foray into releasing records. A white box set called Some Songs Side-by-Side, it comprises two LPs and ‘documents a community of bands that have been active in Glasgow throughout 2012’. Each of the eight bands gets half a side, or twelve minutes. Also included are a poster, three art prints on paper and an LP-sized / shaped sticker by David Shrigley, which reads ‘I collect records, I am obsessed with them.’ There’s a booklet with more art prints and a CD of the music — it’s such a beautiful object. Consider this a rave review, and I haven’t even listened to it yet, though I’m looking forward immensely to more Gummy Stumps and Muscles of Joy, the first released recordings of Sacred Paws, and finding out about other things I’d missed. It’s only £20, somehow. If you love records, you need a copy. Monorail understand that objects matter, they put in the time and care to contextualise them, to make them tantalising. ‘Atmos., transactions, good times’, as a flyer slogan of theirs once had it.
The Cool Cat Club meets Monster A-Go Go Xmas Special, with The Won Over, Hookers for Jesus and Blood Indians, at Beat Generator Live!, Dundee, 14th December.
The above written last Monday night, after the gig on Sunday. I stopped to listen to Some Songs, (much more fun than typing) and didn’t get started again. But what happened was: Richard Youngs set up a table with a laptop, a tiny guitar amp and a noise generating thing with knobs, and intoned, using the lower of John Lydon’s two patented notes, ‘Another sleepless night’. It became annoying almost immediately, which was the point, I think. He repeated it continuously for most of the twenty minute set, pausing occasionally to drop the microphone with a loud bang, to set the laptop drum loop going, or stop it again, or to twiddle with amp or noise generator. He’s a great performer to watch — fearless, hyperactive, bloody minded. The last time I saw him he played the same song twice in a row because he didn’t like the key, so he moved the capo on the guitar and played it again. ‘Another sleepless night / Another sleepless night’, on and on. ‘I wonder if he has kids?’ said S. After Youngs, it was all about the drumming: Moon Unit did an Acid Mothers style squall that took a while to whip itself up, but once it had it tore through sails and rigging alike, and you might even say that the drums tore through the guitar and the bass, fixing their vagaries. Sacred Paws were as excellent as they had been at the CCA a few weeks previously, and seemed a little awe struck by the large audience, which thanks to the shape of Mono does look a little like the outer reaches of a stadium brought right up close when it’s packed. A wall of faces. The Pastels sounded louder and generally bigger in this small venue than they had in the Bush Hall, and more overwhelming in consequence. New song ‘Come to the Dance’ came off better this time, more confident, less hurried. There could hardly be more of a home crowd than this, and Stephen took the opportunity of a pause occasioned by a snare drum problem (if there was ever an opportunity to ask for a Spare Snare...) to say a little about the occasion. That he and Dep had started Monorail with little more than a loan, and that it was amazing to have everyone here... He trailed off, and a loud cheer from the crowd completed the thought. Then he dedicated ‘Baby Honey’ to Dep. It would be too easy to be triumphalist, but it doesn’t hurt to be celebratory now and then. Thank you, Monorail.
I was thinking about all that great drumming — particularly Sacred Paws’ — watching Blood Indians on Friday at Andy’s Christmas Cool Cat Club gig. It’s not that you have to have joyously complicated rhythms to be worth watching, but Blood Indians are a little too basic for me. Very straight strumming, or sometimes picking, nothing much in the way of syncopation. They played two covers: ‘Silent Night’, as this was a Christmas gig, and that suited their pared down style well; and the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’, which I liked a lot less. The whole taking a synth song and making it a guitar song idea is open to the suspicion that the performer is trying to add integrity in a dreadfully unimaginative way. I don’t like the song either. They were at their best on the closing ‘Wolves’, which is based around Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ riff, and which takes off into strange vocal territory. The two singers’ voices are folky and inward, a bit Rozi Plain, and when they soar and intertwine that can be interesting — mysterious, even.
This year Andy’s put on quite a few gigs: Vic Godard in March, Edinburgh School for the Deaf in September, an Oxjam house gig featuring his own, reformed Candy Store Prophets in October. Then there was a slightly odd experiment in June, when the best band, Creeping Ivies, went on first and the headliners, The High Fevers, essentially a wedding band, played very famous ’60s songs, wearing polo necks and fringes pinched from mid-period Beatles. That didn’t quite work, but it was an interesting thing to try, and it probably paved the way for Friday’s extravaganza. The poster advertised burlesque dancers, in a move presumably half-inched from Dexys, but considerably more down market. It was the incongruity of it that was so wonderful: following the sedate Blood Indians, and in the context of several craft stalls at the back of the room, selling jewellery and home-made greetings cards, we got an amusingly gobby Glaswegian** on the mic introducing two burlesque dancers and one belly dancer. The belly dancer was good (we were warned not to ask her to get her tits out — never had that at an indie gig before), and the other two... I mean, what do you say, really? The second one emerged covered in glitter-filled balloons which she proceeded to burst until there were only suggestively-placed ones left. Immediately after she’d finished, the barman rushed out with a dustpan, broom and bin, the MC still in mid flow with her concluding remarks. You can’t buy faded glamour like that.
After this the burlesque MC returned, in a Darth Vader outfit, to do her own routine. The night’s headliners, The Won Over — featuring my old boss Owen — were always going to struggle against such weirdness, and they were good, but too normal, really. They reminded me of not liking Broken Social Scene and, without being totally overblown, were reaching for the epic without really getting their hands dirty. The night belonged to the Hookers, the fuck ups, the waifs and strays.
* ‘A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.’
** Pretty pleased to discover, looking up ‘gobby’ to make sure it’s a real word, that my dictionary gives ‘a gobby Glaswegian’ as its usage example.
Hookers for Jesus photo by S.