Live Review: The Continuous Battle Of Order, Jogging, The Cities We Captured

14 05 2010

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – May 2010**

The Cities We Captured are the opening act tonight and having to support The Continuous Battle Of Order is a difficult ask of them. What are two essentially instrumental acts, couldn’t be much more different. The Cities We Captured have a more straight-forward post-rock approach, and while they show potential, they struggle to really captivate our imagination; it’s almost as if they’re here to provide us with a blue-print so that the headliners can come out later and tear it apart.

Jogging are the punk-rock filling sandwiched between the instrumentalists, having come up from Dublin to entertain us. They have a refreshing urgency. Their influences are obvious; pure DC sound, Dischord territory – nods to bands like Fugazi and Rites of Spring – but they also bring to mind Hot Water Music and Hot Snakes with the pace and anger in their delivery. They have some complicated guitar-lines, off-kilter drum patterns; they’ve been a perfect fit on tonight’s bill and a pleasant surprise.

The Continuous Battle Of Order take to the stage next. Or not, as it turns out, as they’ve moved their kit down to the floor, the drums are in the centre of the room, facing the stage, and there’s a chair directly facing them with a selection of pedals laid out in front of it. Craig takes to the drums and Hornby places himself on the chair. I’ll admit, at this point, having never seen TCBOO before – but being a big fan of We Are Knives (Craig and Hornby’s last band) – I worried for a second that I was about to see a more measured approach than their previous incarnation, a Knives-lite. I think it was the chair that threw me but I needn’t have worried, they ain’t no plastic cutlery. Right from the off, Hornby’s wrestling his guitar like it’s an angry crocodile, busting out mesmerising grooves, looping riffs on the fly and showing off the stunning technical proficiency that those who’ve seen him before have come to expect, while those who haven’t are stood around, wide-eyed in stunned silence. He’s jerking around, flailing his limbs and shaking uncontrollably all while staying, for the most part, firmly in his seat. It’s an interesting visual, he’s like an angry kid in a high-chair refusing to be spoon-fed. Maybe he’s tired of being spoon-fed generic music?

To label TCBOO a ‘math-rock’ band would be too easy; they’re almost like an aggressive jazz band. It’s hard to tell how much of Hornby’s guitar-work is improvised, if any, it all seems so chaotic but still faultless. Craig’s drumming is stunning too – it’s as if they’re trying to out-do each other technically, especially with the way they’re set up facing each other – but they’re not in competition, they’re very much on the same wave-length. At one point, Hornby sets up a floor-tom and leaves a set of drum-sticks on top, encouraging a little bit of audience participation while he goes off with another set of sticks to drum around Craig on his kit. We’re all a bit too shy to join in but it’s a nice touch. Amidst the whirlwind of noise, there’s some hand-claps, Hornby sings out a few lines (without mic) and the set ends with the crowd chanting “we are all just pattern seekers”. Tonight we certainly were, and discovering the patterns amidst TCBOO’s chaos has been an absolute pleasure.

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Live Review: Pocket Billiards, The Cities We Captured, No Mean City

31 03 2010

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – Mar 2010**

No Mean City kick off proceedings tonight; they’re a pleasant surprise as they’re actually pretty awesome. The focal point of the band is without a doubt their striking front-lady, Jilly, who not only looks good up there in her tiny shorts, but has a great voice and throws some mean shapes too. She’s like our own homegrown Karen O with a bit of Peaches sex-appeal, and attitude thrown in – she’s not afraid to put a heckling punk firmly in his place, mid-set. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an obvious reference musically too, but No Mean City are a heavier beast, more straight-up rock, grunge guitars and big riffs. Set highlights include ‘TigerKissRose’ with it’s catchy refrain and ‘Gettin’ Off’, which is a bit pervy (but in a good way). They’re still a little rough around the edges in terms of full-band performance, it’s more like a solo act with a backing band at the minute, Jilly’s rock star swagger makes the other guys look timid in comparison but there’s bags of potential here for No Mean City to add a bit of polish and truly sparkle.

After all that rock, it seems appropriate that we have some post-rock (!), and here’s The Cities We Captured to deliver it. They’ve got more pedals than you could shake a stick at. You’d need several sticks. Not sure why you’d want to do that. The lighting effects in the Speakeasy tonight really add an extra dimension, helping to create the perfect atmosphere for this type of set – when the music tries to deafen you, the lights try to blind you. It sounds a bit painful actually but it’s not, it’s great. There’s a hint of magic in the air, the atmosphere is tense and the waves of music are enveloping. At least for a bit anyway, then things start to all sound a bit the same. The influences on display are obvious: think Pelican or Russian Circles but I’d wager that if it weren’t for Tracer AMC and more recently, ASIWYFA, bands like The Cities We Captured might not have been so quite to pop up on the local scene. Undeniably tight and technically proficient, there’s some great ideas in here but some of the songs go on a bit and they haven’t managed to replicate that intangible, emotional investment that Tracer AMC or ASIWYFA have honed to perfection. And so I watched the rest of their set from the bar.

Through a haze of cider, Pocket Billiards are headlining tonight’s extravaganza. The cider is important; Pocket Billiards are a party band, so to truly appreciate them you need to be suitably lubricated. Pocket Billiards deliver ska-punk in their own unique style, they may appeal to fans of Less Than Jake or The Mighty Mighty Bosstones but they don’t try to imitate them; they do things their own way, there’s no Americanisms or faux accents here – these are songs about their own lives (‘Don’t Scratch My Soca’ is about their love of comedy classic, Desmond’s) and about Belfast (such as set highlight ‘SPIDE’), sung in a Belfast accent, they’re passionate about what they’re doing but they don’t take themselves too seriously either – they’re here to have fun. You don’t need to be a ska or punk fan to enjoy Pocket Billiards. You just need to like having fun. And everyone likes having fun, don’t they? So check them out, they’re one of Belfast’s finest and it’d be a shame to let the punks hog all the fun.