Kristin Hersh, Camden Barfly, 30/03/05
Owen's already reviewed this one, so there's not much I can add. Hersh is diminutive but intense, and her gravelly voice tangled roughly with guitar and chamber-music backing, tearing through the heavy pall of cigarette smoke, filling the room. The venue was ideal for the music: small, dark, claustrophobic, a mass of closely-pressed bodies and muttering voices; Hersh's rambling anecdotes felt like bright glimpses of other people's lives overheard on the platform of a station where no trains stop.
Once, in a darkened room in a house that was never a home, I listened to Hips and Makers over and over, wrapping the strings around me like unseen spiderwebs, like wool and barbed wire. I emerged from that cocoon but shreds of the feeling still cling to my hands and feet.
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The Organ, Upstairs at the Highbury Garage, 09/04/05
On a lighter note, The Organ pulled out all the stops for this gig, pedalling their own swell brand of lofty yet strangely comforting and console-ing ... [That's enough! -- ed.] er, anyway. Punning aside, The Organ are allegedly the next Next Big Thing (or possibly one further remove of Nextness, Bigness or indeed Thingness); which is to say, they're a rehash of a previous Big Thing but with a couple of unique twists of their own. Reviews of the band tend to namecheck the Cure, the Smiths, Interpol; it's lazy, but it's as informative as any of the alternative styles of dancing about architecture. Rhythmic basslines, echoing and jangly guitars, the Hammond organ that gives the band their name, and a hatful of melancholic lyrics all combine to produce a sound akin to... well, make your own identikit review. The female Morrissey? The Canadian Banshees? The Throwing Muses covering the songs of The Cure? Interpol lying in a field of narcissi listening to Joy Division on their Walkmans, while in the background ... anyway, you get the picture. The lyrics are mostly Morriseyesque (and I do say that like it's a good thing), but not always really up to scratch:
Remember when I left youIt is a bit of a shame, isn't it.
I couldn't say your name
or other crucial things like I love you,
oh, that's a shame.
On the whole, though, a good gig, though less interesting peoplewatching than we'd hoped for from Club Motherfucker, the subtly-named LGB night under whose aegis the evening's entertainments were supposedly hosted. Perhaps our hopes were unreasonably raised by the brightly-coloured website, or perhaps being gay just isn't as cool as it used to be.
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The Tears, the Junction, 18/04/05
From 80s revival to early 90s revival: here come The Tears again. Four months on from the first secret gig at Oxford's Zodiac, The Tears still haven't got an album. In fact, they still haven't got a single, as the release date of "Refugees" has been pushed back another frustrating week, though it seems to be getting a fair amount of airplay. It's not often you see a band who've still yet to release a record filling Cambridge's Junction, but Brett and Bernard clearly have enough stage presence (and enough dry ice) to fill a bigger venue.
It's a brave move to open with a slow song, but The Tears pulled it off (and I'm not talking about Brett's shirt, which remained firmly buttoned and tucked into his waistband) with the haunting "A Love As Strong As Death", seguing into the more upbeat anthem "The Lovers". They're definitely at their best with the moody love lyrics, the still life ("Imperfections"; "Two Creatures"; "Autograph"; "Beautiful Pain"; "Apollo 13") and less convincing when they try to deal with the bigger picture (ill-advised lighter-waver "Europe After The Rain"; "Brave New Century")."Brave New Century" gets away with it, actually, because it's an opportunity to jump up and down and shout out the chorus without worrying too much about unfortunate sub-Levellers couplets like "Religion breeds like a disease / More people spit on refugees" (or, with the latter line, are The Tears merely worrying about the reception of their single?). "Refugees" may be inspired by politics but they've had the sense to leave all that "load of old bollocks" out of the song, and the result is an Anderson/Butler classic that easily ranks alongside Suede's Dog Man Star-era singles.
And so we come back to the S-word again. I was impressed to see how many people seemed to know all the words despite the absence of an inner sleeve to pore over (though of course the lyrics will all be out there somewhere), and disappointed -- despite the inevitability of it -- to hear people still shouting out requests for Suede songs. Even if the core of devoted supporters that Brett and Bernard have already won with this latest venture is entirely made up of 20- and 30-something Suede fans, The Tears' music stands (or jumps, or shimmies, or lies down full length on the stage crooning darkly into a microphone) on its own merits.