Month Of Fridays #2 w. The Jezabels, Grandfather Birds and Ajimal @ The Cluny, Newcastle, 9. September 2011

Month of Fridays 2 „This Time It’s Personal“. The Sequel. This time it’s personal. And so on and so forth.

Actually, laboured openings to articles aside, the “this time it’s personal” line is actually quite fitting. Although I mean “personal” in a slightly different sense.

In stark contrast to the grandeur that accompanied last week’s Minotaurs homecoming, tonight’s event, nestled warmly in the bosom of the Cluny 2, was a far more intimate affair. But as much as this conversely cosy pleasure was the inevitable result of the venue’s shape and size (I’ve always found it be the perfect medium between Wembley and the womb), it was the bands themselves that inhaled deeply and drew us all in.

Regular viewers will recollect that this time last week I was, whilst Ajimal took the stage next door, contently supping a pint of Guinness. At the time I blamed the plastic cup it was served in for its slightly disappointing flavour but, in hindsight, that was probably the rank aroma of my own slack professionalism I was tasting. Not this week though.

Forsaking a cursory announcement, or even a cordial hello, Ajimal opted to commence proceedings musically and seemingly gave those who had wandered down from the bar early their own choice over whether to pay attention or not. Risky, as given the reverberating malleability of his material, anyone who had decided to just continue their own conversation could have ruined it for everyone. As it happens though, there was no need to worry.

Transferring almost amphibiously between guitar and piano mid-song, there’s a erudite grace to every chord and lyric on display here that’s hard to really describe without falling back to the well-trodden line of “haunting”. To coin a phrase, if you remember those beautiful nightmares that Beyonce was banging on about last year, imagine Thom Yorke having them in a very, very echoey spare room of the Buckley residence.

It’ll be too much for some people though. Music so pregnant with emotion and narrative will always be dismissed as depressing by some, but there’s real reward for those who can look past that. Tonight though, with the claustrophobic nature of both setting and sound, Ajimal’s audience was probably divided into two groups – Those who really enjoyed it, and those who were really surprised by how much they enjoyed it. Even if the face paint is a little daft.

Next up were Grandfather Birds, a band who are seemingly scratching out a career by coincidentally filling support slots at gigs I’m dispatched to review. I quickly estimated that, without making an effort, this was going to be the 4th or 5th time I’d seen them in the last 2 months, meaning they’re probably now classifiable as my best friend. I’m alright with that, but it will make some of what I’m about to say slightly awkward.

There’s two things you need to know about Grandfather Birds. First of all, and I should stress, most importantly, they are a brilliant, brilliant band. They’re in possession of some of the finest, neatest and muscular tracks you’re going to hear anywhere in the North-East at the moment. It’s brutal and brooding in equal measure, without ever sounding disjointed, and they should, at least in terms of hype and publicity, be standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of this years break out stars.

But, and it pains me to say this, their live show is still letting them down slightly. Not in terms of competence, looking back they’re weren’t bested for poise by Ajimal, nor did they shrink in vastness when compared to The Jezabels, but simply in terms of enthusiasm. I might (actually, I hope) I’m doing them a slight disservice, but there’s a creeping feeling every time I watch them that they’re all in other bands and it’s becoming musical adultery that actively oozes guilt.

Granted, a band not looking all that interested is a small gripe, but given that they’ve got songs which sound like the hazy memories of every great party you’ve ever been to, and a singer with a voice like an industrial-sized frayed rope, it’s one I really hope they make strides to fix. Insert your own metaphor about me losing my mind over a missing jigsaw piece.

Tonight though, for all the deliberate warmth and coldness of the previous two acts, was all about The Jezebels. But then again, it was always going to be.

Despite being a slightly bemusing choice to those in attendance who’d never previously come across them, they were instantly into their stride and looked every inch the complete package of that band your Australian friends can’t shut up about. There was also a few Jezabels die-hards in the crowd as well, showing that their reach certainty isn’t exceeding their grasp.

Their sound is utterly stunning as well. Three musicians, all of which play like cans of Red Bull come to life, wield an arsenal or unrelenting indie licks as their singer moulds a screaming argument between Annie Lennox and Karen-O into a thunderously punctuating melody. It would be very easy for me to just sit here and lavish you with analogies of their front-woman because, when she really gets going, it’s captivating to the point that the rest of the band might as well not even be there.

But they are though, and the combined effect was something like plastering Heartthrobs, Florence and Pierce’s flyers to a solid brick wall, and then attacking it with Siouxsie’s and the Banshees own power tools until the cement starts to give and you can see a Gary Numan banner underneath.

As I said at the beginning, this didn’t have the momentous feeling of occasion that ran throughout last week, but if anything that’s testament to how snuggly these events have fitted into everyone’s social routine, as well the bands themselves being almost close enough to hug. The prevailing sentiment, and I’m getting steadily less alone in this, still seems to be that this really should be running for longer than its current 5 week incubation. Onward!

By Adam Clery KYEO

Photos: Stephen Noble


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