Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Commercial Alternative, Mono, Glasgow, 4th July

Returning after Girls Names’ set to the corner where S. sat knitting on a sofa, I found her friend D. incredulous: ‘I hate things that inept. Did you find anything musical about it at all?’ he asked, from somewhere up his rock mountain. From the third buttercup on the left in my pop pasture, I conceded, ‘It was a bit things-added-together.’ With a Jaguar guitar hitched high and trouser legs rolled in what could conceivably have been a homage to J. Alfred Prufrock (except Prufrock would presumably have noticed the missing apostrophe in the band’s name), the singer looked as deliberately weedy as Pants Yell!’s Andrew Churchman. He didn’t sound like him though, with a lower voice, channelled through a wind tunnel of reverb, which had the peculiar effect of making him sound like Morrissey. The undercarriage to this mumbled wail was made mostly of Shop Assistants, fast and raucous. Which is why I don’t think the ineptitude charge is fair: they played very well. I think what D. really objected to was the projected, celebrated introversion. And this is the kind of tension which threaded its way through the bill of Mono’s summertime mini-festival, made up of bands skirting the Crystal Stilts / Vivian / Dum Dum Girls axis, and bands with a more traditional / less insular outlook.

Openers Golden Grrrls were on a blissout variant of the pop trail. There were three of them: two grrrls, on mini-keyboard / guitar / vox and drums / vox, and one boy, on another Jaguar. He went reverb crazy with that whilst the other two took turns singing, the other guitarist playing simple, bass-line parts for much of the time. I really enjoyed them. Peter Parker were less talkative than last time (maybe because it was daylight), but I can report that Ros’s bob has become a perm, and that she hasn’t dyed her roots, giving a rich brown / blonde / cherry palette. Jane wore tights that looked like they’d been ripped from the walls of the Alhambra. My favourite of theirs is still the set-closing ‘Once In A Lifetime’. Up next, Astral Planes rocked, and had a high posturing-to-tunes ratio. ‘Mid-period Primal Scream?’ I queried. ‘Suzi Quattro,’ confirmed S. I’m going to lump Remember Remember in with the rock camp too, because they were definitely not going for any kind of honed minimal perfection. Brogues reckoned they were reminiscent of Steve Reich and John Adams, but to me their rhythms sounded lumpy and their loops / repeated phrases lacked any interesting variation or tone, going instead for alterations in volume. Music with drums in it should never swell, how about we make that a rule? 1990s were a million times more fun, and I even liked that song by the drummer which annoyed me when it was on YouTube. Most of the set had a harder edge than that, and Mr McKeown’s soloing on yet another Jaguar (‘How many of them are there here today?’ he wondered, annoyed. ‘Fuck’s sake’) was sharp, effective, and defiantly un-indie.

Things I love about Comet Gain: Realistes!, Casino Classics, Jon Slade when he used to do the Plan B radio show, sounding like he was permanently in his pyjamas. Things I know about Comet Gain apart from that: zip. What are they even called? MySpace offers: ‘D.C. FECK; M.J.TAYLOR; J.W.SLADE; K.ISHIKAWA; R.EVANS; OTHERS’. ‘Feck’? Wow. Is ‘R’ for ‘Rachel’ as in ‘What’s your favourite Hitchcock? / Determines a friend’s real feelings / Strangers on a Train’s mine / But Rachel says that Rope’s got its moments’? Apparently it is. They are so referential and so seemingly hidden that they can be a mysterious bunch. Of course that makes it more exciting to see them. Maybe they are missing a guitarist because they are joined onstage by ‘Jackie McKeown’s twin brother John’, i.e. the chap from The Yummy Fur rather than the very same one from 1990s, i.e. do not dare trying to be defiantly un-indie under our watch, son. A song or two in D. C. (Detective Constable? Comics?) Feck warns, ‘don’t try any of that rock ’n’ roll whammy bar stuff or I’ll kick you in the... dick’, he concludes, tailing off. Looking at the pairing of him and Rachel I can’t shift the impression I’m watching a band fronted by Bill Oddie and Janet Ellis. Jon with his wraparound sideburns doesn’t quite fit, but seems oblivious. Obviously all this is great, I love the fact that they’re visually so ramshackle, so unconcerned, so beige. Rachel is dressed to give a performance review, but is behaving like a shadow boxer. Unconfined by an instrument, she’s jumping and punching and grabbing at the air and she invests the performance with so much energy. D. C. Feck draws on this, as he leans into the mic, his impassioned and cultural words take on urgency through the presence of the dervish to his right. And the songs? There are plenty I don’t know, but a few from Realistes!, most importantly ‘I Close My Eyes to Think of God’, because I love that song, and the implication that a life from which a partner has departed is worse than one without God, because at least the partner was real. They fluff the start of ‘Why I Try To Look So Bad’, which Feck has apparently forgotten all about, but once they are in, the water is lovely if indistinct (the Farfisa organ stage left looks great, but you can’t hear it), but that doesn’t matter at all, and Comet Gain are Comet Gain, there is no arguing, there is no anything except for blind trust.

They slowed things down for the last song, and at first the line ‘Where you been’ didn’t mean much, it could have been anything. ‘Ain’t seen you for weeks’. Oh God, what’s that? On the tip of my tongue... ‘You’ve been hanging out with’ (Of course you have!) ‘All those Jesus freaks.’ Bloody hell. The perfect compliment to the recent Felt celebration fanzine, we got a drawn out ‘Ballad of the Band’, and at the end some delicate slide guitar from John / Jackie, with maybe a little snuck-in whammy bar action.


Anne said...

I've never managed to catch Comet Gain live - they cancelled the gig I was supposed to see them at in Paris some years ago. I'm sure they must be perfectly unperfect. I love the way they have obsessions, ideals, high aims, they seem to be in a little world of their own.

brogues said...

Top review again, good sir! I am in no doubt that Jackie and his 1990s will be so chuffed to read that you found them 'defiantly un-indie'. You got them pegged, for sure! The full band Remember Remember experience was certainly different to the 1 man with looping experience, but I liked it. I didn't find the drumming lumpy in fact it made me think of Neu and Can and the like and it was the other percussion that sounded most like the Reich I know from the 'Phases' box.

Comet Gain were everything I wanted and needed them to be and so much more. There was something a little dog-eared but romantic about them and it was so endearing. You just know that they all have great dvd collections and that a party at their house - they do share a house in a Monkees style don't they? - would have the best arguments about music and books. You also know that someone would get a little too tipsy and spill their wine over their copy of 'The Magic Touch' :)

P.S. This is my favourite line of yours ever:

"Rachel is dressed to give a performance review, but is behaving like a shadow boxer."

Chris said...

Thanks Brogues - that is, on reflection, quite a daft thing to have said! Thanks too for putting the case for Remember Remember.

I agree with you both about Comet Gain, they do seem to come pre-packaged with their own highly selective cultural context, and that can be so important.

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