Monday, October 26, 2015

Monorail: A Weekend Abroad, 23rd – 24th October, CCA, Glasgow

Time was, I’d scramble to gets the words down early the morning after, before too much of the hangover kicked in. Keep it fresh, keep it quick. I don’t know how relevant that approach feels anymore, and in any case, The Pastels sunk any possibility of it this time with their own Pastelism Pilsner, on tap at the CCA for the whole event, at a powerful 6.2%. Notes of elderflower, reckoned S. Very tasty. It had been a while since we’d been to Glasgow, but Brogues and Stephen conspired to get a few of us match fit by putting together a fanzine about the bands playing on Saturday. A kind of sequel to the one we did for the Pastels / Tenniscoats Stereo show in 2009. Brogues’ multi-coloured autumnal design was just perfect, and his enthusiasm (for Spinning Coin in particular, and for Glasgow music in general) as infectious as always. Chris S.’s contribution, about two idiots latching on to The Pastels as impressionable students, beginning to ‘slightly obsess’ (slightly?) over their music and the other music they drew on and fed into, is one of my favourite things ever. Just as actually living through it has been, of course. I love Andrew R. Hill’s piece too, the way it’s so abstract it doesn’t even mention the band it’s about; and the way it paints music as normal, problematic, everywhere.

‘So you missed the only good thing?’ said C., on Saturday, when we confessed to having missed Happy Meals the previous day. Before demolishing The Space Lady in three words: ‘It’s funny once.’ Which is a bulletproof argument*, but having thought about it, I would like to employ the Nigel Bruce defence: good isn’t the only good. And the least good thing in The Space Lady’s set was also the most striking: a new song, on her new split LP, called ‘The Next Right Thing’, in which she argues that the approaching environmental armageddon can be averted if each of us, individually, only goes about always doing the next right thing. It’s bollocks, and trite, but something about the flashing red helmet she wears saves it from the kind of terminal earnestness that it would have in the hands of, say, Bridget St John. Actually, through a decent PA, The Space Lady’s Silver Apples basslines punched pretty hard, and the ‘Tainted Love’ drum patterns sizzled pleasingly in the vacuum above. It sounded great. ‘Born to be Wild’ was a highlight, with reverb echo shrieks coming out of nowhere, belying the polite backing. Molly Nilsson followed, and had the audience at the front dancing crazily away for the duration. Between songs she knelt down to press ‘play’ on her laptop, which was a step too far from performance for me: there were no visuals, just Molly bopping slowly away, and singing not very expressively. Having said that, I did like some of the songs: particularly ‘Lovers are Losers’. I’m intrigued enough to want to know more, and actually I’d love to get back into music that sounds like this, because 1987 is where I came in, musically speaking (and the new New Order is nowhere near).

We arrived in time to catch most of Take Three Girls: The Dolly Mixture Story on Saturday, which certainly rewarded a second viewing, and which may yet come to DVD, said Paul Kelly, if they can clear the rights. He and Debsey Wykes did a Q & A afterwards, in which he said that there is yet more footage he’d like to edit in, adding another ten minutes or so. Debsey laughed at how much of a creep the guy on local TV had been, interviewing them before they played ‘Baby, It’s You’. ‘And yours is the definitive take?’ he said, remembering the original version. Debsey demurred: ‘I don’t know’, not playing the game, skin crawling, caught promoting a single none of them believed in to this cheesy guy. That single seems to have been the big mis-step in their career, earning them the distain of their peers. Though partly it was their aesthetic, too, and they were marginalised in much the same way that Talulah Gosh were later, for being girls not trying to be boys. The main insight which came out of the Q & A was that Take Three Girls is very much an insider’s take on the story, and a much needed one, to set the balance right, even in the minds of the band members. Paul said that their initial interviews were largely negative, and so he did them again (getting Captain Sensible and Rachel Bor’s son to interview Debsey), after making an effort to convey to them what a great thing they had achieved with Dolly Mixture.

After that, things start to get a bit hazy. Roxanne Clifford’s new band Normal Love seemed like a return to form following Veronica Falls’ attempt to go a bit too large with their second LP. Lightness, urgency and melody are back! It will be exciting hearing this come to recorded fruition – soon, hopefully. Spinning Coin’s shimmering 90s-ish indie rock sounded beefier than their first cassette EP, but I didn’t quite make the leap to adoration on this showing. There was some wittering between songs which didn’t help. ‘Is this some kind of metaphor?’ heckled Chris, helpfully, when they started to go on a bit. ‘It could be a metaphor,’ they conceded, to their credit. I had worried a bit about Birdie in advance, having watched some 2013 YouTube clips when preparing my fanzine piece. As a three piece, through a phone mic, there wasn’t much left of their detailed pop vision. In person, those concerns melted away, Paul filling in the gaps with his 12-string electric and high backing vocals. He even sang lead on one song, East Village’s ‘Shipwrecked’. Debsey was in fine voice, and sang the songs we wanted to hear – ‘Let Her Go’, ‘Linus’, ‘Folk Singer’. So elegant, full of tough melancholy. Amazing to hear. At the Q & A they said they’d retired Birdie in 2001, but also that they were doing this show for the simple reason that they had been asked. Promoters of the world, do some more asking, please. The Pastels followed this with a confident, home crowd set drawing largely from Slow Summits, dipping into their past for ‘Fragile Gang’ (dedicated to ‘our friend Carey’, the Camera Obscura keyboard player who passed away recently), ‘Baby Honey’ and the New York Dolls’ ‘Lonely Planet Boy’. Stephen’s songs ‘Night Time Made Us’ and ‘Summer Rain’ have never sounded better, and Katrina avoided melancholy completely with ‘Check My Heart’ and ‘Come To The Dance’ adding to the celebratory mood. The defining Pastels moment of the weekend, though, has to be this Tweet, from Friday:
See also the #fuckedonpastelism hashtag. Who else can do this? It’s great to be a part of it.

* Is it, though? Defence #2: Doing it once wouldn’t be all that funny, it’s the fact that she’s been doing this act for forty odd years that gives it… not gravitas, obviously, but something like poignancy.

Chris S.’s photos are here.

Andrew’s review of the gigs (including a pic of the zine) is here.

Brogues’s review, including a download of the zine, is here.


Unknown said...

Ha! Loved this! 'C' xx

Chris said...

Thanks! After a week with the Space Lady's eco song as an increasingly irritating earworm I think I'll drop the defence now.

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