Review: Malpas / This Sinking Ship @TheBullsHead

Malpas / This Sinking Ship
We Love Wednesdays
The Bulls Head
3rd February 2010

As we arrive at the small but perfectly formed Bulls Head our attention is grabbed by This Sinking Ship – the side project of JP, ex lead singer of The Gravity Crisis. He’s full of likeable confidence and plays a ramshackled set of acoustic oddities while revealing various slogans and ramblings on pieces of paper as he turns the pages on his music stand such as: “Life is like a science experiment, sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. Either way if you don’t have goggles and the right apparatus, yer in the shit”.

An enthusiastic fan, known only as Simon, gets a love song dedicated to him and two people at the front help JP to tune his guitar as he seems to strum the life out of it every two minutes. A cover of Super Furry Animals’ ‘Runaway’ goes down a treat as well as everything else he has to offer. He’s also a really top bloke and wore a fabulous red shirt – something that Simon and many others complimented him on. Perhaps not what he should have been acknowledged for, but the good vibes are infectious and he’s greeted to a well deserved round of applause as he disappears out of the back door for a cig at the end.

After some quick rearranging as there is simply so much stuff to get in place, Malpas begin their set with the gorgeous glockenspieling of ‘Under Her Sails‘ which is an instant plunge into a sea of soaring vocals, minimal drums and warm synth – it is no surprise that it has become their most well known tune as it sums up exactly what they are about: straddling interesting ideas and unrelenting creativity with superb songwriting. These are songs that never become bloated by theatrical emotive rubbish or involve man on acoustic guitar howling for half an hour with minimal accompaniment from three forgettables – quite the opposite, as each member has a clearly devised a crucial role in contributing to such a wonderful noise.

The atmosphere instantly warms and becomes more intimate as people murmer to each other about how good Ali Forbes’s voice is, and we have to agree. It has a beautifully delicate quality to it whilst standing up to the weight of the rest of the band and leads the way from start to finish. What the recent invasion of oddly dressed trendy folk bands, one of Malpas’s finest qualities is their completely honest approach to crafting such fine music: Jim McCaulay on drums feigns hi-hat stutters and what he leaves out is almost as important as what he puts in and in a way this demonstrates how much love and attention to detail is poured into every flute flourish, every piano chord and every percussive tap. There isn’t anything in here that shouldn’t be and everything is spot on.

The audience seem to engage with this careful songcraft and there are not many people in the room who aren’t wrapped up completely in every tune that is put forward, and even more in the band’s favour, a dodgy lead somewhere in the setup provides ongoing grief but the band simply get on with it. Shepherds Bush Empire this ain’t, but its still a fantastic show and a great end to a top night.

Tim Mobbs

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