More Than Conquerors***1/2**
The Borderline, London Thursday 13th September
There are some things you keep going back for. Even though you’ve got a pretty good idea what to expect.
You know what a piece of hot buttered toast is going to taste like. But the toaster gets fired up regularly. You know the Bill Hicks DVD will cause a thoughtful laughter-induced aneurism. But, the curtains and ring pulls get pulled and the BlueRay pressed into action. And you know that slightly sad but soothingly woozy feeling you get when you get to the last mouthful of a bottle of ’79 Aloxe-Corton. But the cork gets lovingly drawn and the glugging commences.
So, the tantalising thought of one of the UK’s finest young rock bands performing their fabulous album Scatterbrain is exactly the same. And one that a packed Borderline obviously agrees with. So, corks popped and Dualits turned on….
Tonight’s revelry starts with Ulstermen More Than Conquerors. Their gilt-edged, proggy alt Biffy-esque, at times mathy jaunt draws a decent early throng and they fire a volley of catchy energy bullets stage left right and centre. A crackling start to proceedings culminating with a drum-off and the cheeky chappy guitarist and front man taking to the venue floor. Great stuff.
So, what next? Who is Saul Goodman? A hitherto undiscovered Canadian acoustic balladeer? A blind deep jungle-trance electro moshcore visionary from Tel Aviv? A cross-over Country and Western pedal steel player ? Nah. It’s those damned tinkers The Xcerts them very selves. So what are the trio doing supporting themselves? As it were.
The new stuff is huger than ever. A heavier and bigger bombast underpins chest-beating hooks and STI-like infectious refrains. A tantalising amuse-bouche and thrilling portent of even greater things to come from the lads. Brilliant and bed-wettingly exciting stuff.
I was lucky enough to catch Yearbook at Dom Patience’s triumphant Burnout Festival in July and was duly knocked out and more than a little love struck. Having heard a smattering of their oeuvre thanks to the unsigned-pushing-heroic hairy bastard Alex Baker on Kerrang! Radio I’d already warmed to this quirky and passionate bunch of weirdnik library geek troubadours. But wasn’t fully prepared for their live animation of their work.
And tonight was even finer. The totally original sound, constructs, tunesmanship and general freshness genuinely set these lads apart from the trailing pack of competent Canterbury-esque schmoove rockers or clichéd dropped D clean/scream emometalaltpostrockcore.
Mesmerising throughout, thought-provoking and musically masterful; they marry massive choruses with plaintive fragility switching effortlessly into goose-bump inducing heavy-boned emotional rawness.
Chief librarian and singer Andy Holloway leads from the front and possesses such an original and elastic voice. Ranging between Bombay Bicycle Club, ATDI, Weezer and pitched in the same raw ultra high balcony as Andrew Groves from Arcane Roots
Like a fabulous and engaging Iain Banks novel, their set (albeit a shorter support set) takes you on a journey drenched in pathos, humour, raw power, anger and just general weirdness. Brilliant and mesmerising. Can’t wait to see them again. As a headline act.
So, the main toast next. And not much needs to be said. It’s comforting. Gorgeous. Familiar. And as tasty as ever. But tonight they’ve dug out that once-in-a-lifetime brilliant country loaf and used the very finest posh Normandy butter. There is not one crumb that’s not the most delicious imaginable.
The album has never sounded better. Ranging and veering wildly between light and shade. Explosive fusillades and pure, pared-down emotion. Light tuneful singalongy OO OO OO OOs in Slackerpop and the darker, morose timbre of the beautiful and heartfelt Lament provide perfect illustrations of the massive breadth of offering.
The crowd munch on every yummy slice. Dutifully and respectfully lending vocal back up where needed. And by the time the rapturous applause and wild adulation fades into a sultry autumn Soho evening, there isn’t a mouth smiling and whetted by the glisten of buttery deliciousness.
An over-used word; but an awesome performance, served lovingly by a truly awesome band. Yum.