Monday, June 2

Liverpool Sound City - The Conclusion

Snapping a shot of today’s musical landscape is like trying to piece together the good bits from The Ting Ting’s debut album. Tough stuff.
Nonetheless, the very first Liverpool Sound City has done rather well in cramming all the guitar grime, Korg-keys and alt.folk one would ever call for in a four-day festival, spread across every of the city’s noisy retreats. And even if Reverend and the Makers are one of the headliners, the rest of the line-up most definitely makes up for it…

Tuesday 27 May
Day one. And it’s local posse Earl Grey and the Lego Men who begin proceedings at The Metropolitan, albeit in front of about five people, few of which are the next band on. Still, there’s a kind of GN’R-encounters-RATM about them, what with the guitarist’s classic rock solo attempts traversing underneath the singer’s political blurts. These have all the right things to say, they just need a platform to say them.
Over at the Carling Academy Soft Toy Emergency have scored themselves an early support slot under headliners Hadouken!, all in order to take advantage of the latter’s extremely adolescent and extremely bouncy fans, whilst showing off their own slab of fuzzy but clean jumped-up chord-tro. Actually rather good.
A quick trip to the Barfly to catch supposedly ‘buzz-band’ Team Waterpolo, only to realise after about a minute’s worth of the first ABBA-stained nightmare why there’s hardly a soul in here. Thus, the punk’d up Bloc-throbs of Does It Offend You, Yeah? have never seemed so enticing, even if they are being displayed within what is now a sweat-crazed upstairs of the Carling Academy. ‘Front’ man Morgan Quaintance is not so lively larking about with the sounds of their debut, though he still manages to transform ‘Dawn of the Dead’ into a potential WWE entrance theme.
Downstairs The Ghost Frequency do a good job in making up for the disappointment of just missing The Death Set’s, er, set, via the kind of supercharged beat-punk that can only be experienced live. Near to the end and Artrocker’s just realised they’ve been standing next to James Hadouken!, who for the record is quite the giant in real life, and who also for the record takes to the stage upstairs nearly twenty minutes later.
The lights shut off and the room is screeching the loudest it has all night. Each of Hadouken! emerge only to raise their arms as victors, four kings and one queen, prep’d up to prove why all in here should bow down to their grime-centric muscles. ‘Liquid Lives’ is an absolute classic, but between this and the alluring Crystal Castles about to set off downstairs, the latter win over our eyes. The blaring chiptunes, the uneasy roars of Alice Glass, the crowd’s need to grasp her every motion. This is an experience all must undergo.

Wednesday 28 May
Why is it that most of today’s fresh musical ‘talents’ boast a purpose to sound like Foals? First off at the back of Bumper, Little Fields seem way too reliant on supple guitar patterns and stop-start drum breaks to even consider forming three minutes of actual coherency. Not that Electric Church Foundation aren’t doing the same, though at least with a tad more majestic means, like if Spiritualized were faffing about in Kraftwerk’s private studio or something.
Now to the Domino showcase at Carling Academy 2 where Lightspeed Champion is touting some new tunes, two of which emerge funkier than what is stocked on his fine debut, almost as hard on the edges as Thin Lizzy. No kid. There is of course room to shelve out things like ‘Dry Lips’ and ‘Tell Me What Its Worth’, now both just utter indie classics. However, Dev’s set is left with one song to go, as Artrocker favourites and Liverpool’s most desired masterminds of today, Wave Machines, are about to stride on stage at the café-turned-venue Static Gallery, masks clasped on to their faces naturally. Their assorted array of sure-fire hits is made evident by the gentle and much rousing wonders of set-starter ‘The Greatest Escape We Ever Made’ and set-closer ‘Punk Spirit’, right through to the dance-rooted nugget ‘I Go I Go I Go’. They digress into a tangle of obscurity but still those watching cannot turn away, they know this is something special. The most inspiring thing all week. Another group of stupefying architects that can only truly be experienced live are found in the form of tonight’s headliners, The Strange Death of Liberal England, Portsmouth’s very own orchestral power-tripping stage show. Mightily satisfying.

Thursday 29 May 2008
The sad news of Late of the Pier and Esser’s last-minute cancellations has broken, which means all eyes are on London’s The Shortwave Set to fill time at Carling Academy. They’re as angry as Sons And Daughters but as dull as The Black Keys: Meh.
At Revolution an odd fuse of alt.folk and throbbing bass lines render The Pedantics promising, all before Barfly finally opens its doors, where Brooklyn trio Telepathe begin in what is a slowly filling room upstairs. These carry half their big beat-whines via a programmed MacBook, the other through guitar and drums. It’s a soothing, rich occurrence that is probably just as affective on tape as it in here. Some whirs resemble what Carlos D’s bass-centric disco side-project would be like if he had one.
Downstairs Florence and The Machine have adorned the stage with fake-but-pretty flowers and an empty birdcage. We can already tell where this is going. Though not at least with the reasonable set-starting rendition of Cold War Kids’ ‘Hospital Beds’. Band leader Florence Welch is in possession of yet another dynamic voice we should all bow down to, even if at times her histrionic recoils of flakiness come off more annoying than sweet. “Come nearer, I’m not scary I promise,” she asks of the busy room halfway through, her face flickering with glitter. ‘Bird Song’ makes evident her knack of crafting dance-rooted thumping gems as well as moving, majestic journeys of wonder. But though this is a joyous and interesting spectacle to witness, there just isn’t enough of a pop sensation to be pulled into, apart from her second cover of the night in Mystery Jets’ ‘Flakes’ that is.
Upstairs Swedish daze-techno artist Axel Willner, aka The Field, is filing out heavy, pulsating and compelling beats that still manage to come across pure and stripped-down. Give this guy a bigger space in four hours’ time and this would work with ease. Bordering on a merge of Jacques Lu Cont’s rising reveries and Thom Yorke’s ‘The Eraser’ floor cuttings, Willner carries through a blissful energy that will no doubt be felt by many.
Now Barfly is as packed as it’s been all night. Two ladies and six men step on stage as Hercules and Love Affair (though Antony & The Johnsons’ Antony Hegarty is not present) to hordes of cheers, all but lead singer Nomi sporting New York streets’ term, ‘BANJEE’, on black sleeveless tees. The crowd are shaking to every 70s thrash, every elastic key and every pounding bass line. At first the much-loved house-revivalists seem awkward by Liverpool’s zealous reaction, at least until they feel free to question one fanatic’s sweat patches few songs in. ‘Blind’ is missing Hegarty’s warm vocals but is still a few minutes you just can’t help but move to, though the biggest approval remained for ‘Hercules Theme’, a towering chaos of trumpets and horns. This is also the kind of thing that can only truly be experienced live, and what a fine finish to a progressive evening.

Friday 30 May 2008
Following The Wombats' special homecoming at St. George's Hall, which is so much smaller inside than you'd ever imagine, tonight Zanzibar’s tenth-birthday celebrations for Moshi! Moshi! has the most enticing of bills on offer, firstly with Elle S’appelle. Haven’t these achieved world domination yet? As well as crafting one of last year’s finest jingles, ‘Little Flame’, this trio have hordes of joyous gems worthy of anybody’s pocket money. And tonight they win over even more of this city’s music rooters. Only a matter of time.
Electro-folkster James Yuill crops up next, almost carrying on where Tom Vek left off three years ago, only a touch more tender. That brave mingle of tough pounds and acoustic guitar shouldn’t work but here it truly does, as Yuill politely thanks the audience at every break. Where ‘No Surprise’ leans on a Postal Service spectrum of sweet toils, ‘How Could I Lose’ creeps down a more daunting pathway. A special spectacle for sure.
Headliners Hot Club de Paris are much-greeted back into their home town to present songs off their new record, some seeming bigger and brasher than on their debut. These are further proving their gift of formulating tight and thorny guitar lines into catchy-as-hell moments is unrivalled. All gaze in awe, as yelps of “Grappled by” ring around the room for ‘Shipwreck’, before they finish with ‘Clockwork Toy’. A necessary band at their most impressive, and a fitting end to Sound City.