Chew Lips / Scarlet Harlots / Is I Cinema / Paul Murphy / Little Palm
Brum Notes Christmas Party
Little Palm‘s jazz piano poundings commence festivities at The Victoria, for the youthful but already well established Brum Notes Magazine. Anna Palmer’s confidence has seemingly soared in recent performances as she belts her tunes out in a rich voice that dwarfs her own slight frame. A lazy male chauvinistic journalist, such as your correspondent here, would immediately reach for the Kate Bush analogy (female + piano = Bush), which would be reasonably accurate on first listen but there’s hints of a brasher Laura Marling along with Thom Yorke-y piano meanderings with a perfect fleeting percussive accompaniment.
Little Palm’s sets have often relied heavily on her own interpretations of hit songs and while they impress (see tonight’s brilliant take on ‘Heart of Glass’), they don’t demonstrate her bright talent as a songwriter, which ‘Ghost of a Girl’ and the set highlight ‘Run Little Rabbit’ do fantastically. Hopefully, things will pan out for Little Palm and this time next year there will be a glut of American TV producers blow torching each others eyeballs to get hold of her ivory angst which seems apt to accompany a rainy New York City scene.
With fellow Brummies Clare Maguire, Liz Lawrence and Gemma Quarterman also producing some superb work, 2010 looks very promising on the female front.
The Destoyers’ frontman and local demigod Paul Murphy draws a darkness upon the atmosphere in The Victoria with his witty tales spun with the story telling qualities of the greats such as Johnny Cash, Tom Waits or Marty Robbins. There is a haunting humour that is as honest as it is sardonic – ‘Shoplifter’s Talkin’ Blues’ is so absorbing that you’re having to stifle laughs so that you don’t miss the next line.
The black comicality is over far too quickly and Paul Murphy skulks off into the night, guitar in hand. You can half imagine him finding his way to a candle lit seance in the back room of an underground freak-beat bar that you’ve never heard of, where the whiskey is wicked and the women are even more so.
It’s time to get comfy as the epic Is I Cinema take to stage emitting their monstrous prog-rock. Another act to have gained Ronaldo-like confidence over the past couple of months, IIC have come out of their fragile booky shell and are now more of a power-groove band wrapping you with their panoramic guitars and synths.
Singer, Dom Fletcher looks emotionally drained as ‘Innocent X’ seems to open up a black hole in the upstairs room of this city centre boozer, sucking Blue Whale into a vacuum crammed with comic books, essays on Radiohead, obscure dubstep mixes and Emerson Lake and Palmer. Interestingly enough, for what would seem like a band that would polarise audiences, their gigs have been well attended over the past six months, proving that not only have Is I Cinema found their groove, but also their niche.
Still retaining the poetic intellect and rhythm but packaged in a more instant and digestible form are Scarlet Harlots. Tonight is a more stripped down affair that presents the band’s melodic vocal qualities in a clearer light. ‘Halcyon’ has an incredible bounce to it and also displays a lyrical departure for Sam Baylis as his conscience shifts away from city grittiness to more pressing environmental issues without an ounce of sanctimoniousness.
Returning from a successful tour of Finland, the band are in great spirits and smiles beam to and from the stage as everyone shakes their behinds to ‘Sunflowers’, ‘Flaxen’ and a bubblin’ version of ‘A Secret’. Thankfully, bassist Matthew Campbell saves us all from having to hear ‘This Is How We Do It’ yet again, by leaving his post before the end, refusing to play the Montell Jordan cover. Still, the mood is of seasonal celebration and hearty banter, signalling a much welcome return of the Harlots.
Then kill-joys Chew Lips roll on stage, forcing people to talk amongst themselves as their electro-pop fails to engage with the party mood at The Vic. It’s kind of hard to really like a band that, rumour has it, refuse to play unless headlining. (If this is true, they’re going to need to get pretty popular in time for Glastonbury. Plus, they must have no notion of the constraints of public transport, specifically; the last bus home, which makes them stuck-up arseholes. IF, of course, this is true. If it is not, Blue Whale wholeheartedly apologises and retracts the last 75 words or so. PLEASE SEE COMMENTS BELOW)
They start off better than you actually want them to be but once they peak, three minutes into their set, they plateau in some kind of La Roux – Florence and the Machine no-mans land, barren of any real spark leaving you with some weird Annie Lennox after taste.
Overall though, tonight was a real success and it is good to see a regular, professionally put together music magazine, dedicated to alternative music in Birmingham out on the streets and its team organising well put together shows.
Merry Christmas Brum Notes x