Monkey Swallows the Universe, The Graeme Mearns Band, Gavin Gordon @ Cab Vol, 11 Feb

Monkey Swallows the Universe

A gig review for The Skinny

At the Skinny we know a good thing when we hear it, and that’s why Glasgow singer/songwriter Gavin Gordon is here tonight. Well, our competition for a gig at Cab Vol, plus his formidable talent. The seated, unplugged Gordon makes amends for a diva-style late entrance with a revelation of a first song in Burn the Sun – bluesy, fleeting fretwork, gutsy singing and a little electronic delay pedal-pushing. He draws the audience in with a set of minimal fuss and maximum soul, his fluid guitar style never less than brilliant, his raw passion reciprocated with generous applause. Talk It flares like a tongue of fire, while Still You Let Your Empire Grow is a readymade debut single. Watch this space.

Tactful reviewing is recommended with tonight’s second act, as their MySpace blog reveals that they don’t take kindly to negative critiques. So it’s a relief that The Graeme Mearns Band are putting all their attention into the music tonight. The porkpie-wearing Mr Mearns and his cohorts exude a dusty kind of boho-blues cool, an attitude that extends to their fake-accented wisecracks between songs. Without a drummer for once, their material seems to benefit from a lighter bongo rhythm. Musical ability is never in question, and they’re adept whether indulging in Indian dirges, straight-up blues-rock or AC/DC side-swipes. They might want to steer clear of the lounge-jazz if they want to avoid future scorn, however.

The masculine whiff of 12-bar blues is briskly blown away with the arrival of Monkey Swallows the Universe, Sheffield’s finest practitioners of melodic indie-folk, who have announced this as a farewell tour of sorts. Embracing the trend for expanding beyond the standard guitar-drums formula, MSTU employ cello, violin, glockenspiel and more – and consequently sound something like a female Sufjan Stevens. Songs like Happiness and Bloodline prove that there’s plenty of mileage in this sweet, stripy-jumpered, ever-so-twee strategy, but the rock fans are made to wait for a dose of reverb, which they eventually get in the lurching guitar of Elizabeth and Mary. MSTU’s happy-clappy wholesomeness does lose some of its charm as the set wears on, but they reclaim the room when the cellist releases balloons from a sack during the finale. Cue Flaming Lips comparisons.

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