Review: Shana Tova / Savant / Cajole Cajole / The Carpels

Shana Tova / Savant / Cajole Cajole / The Carpels
We Love Wednesdays
Bulls Head
10th March 2010

At 8:20pm a group of criminally young lads are huddled in a tight group on the stage of the Bull’s Head soundchecking with some bloke eating fish and chips on the bar which leaves a tantalising stench until much later. The teeny weeny stage up here is a bit pokey at the best of times even for a solo act, so The Carpels have to think on their feet to squeeze in all five members as they take to the floor for real fifteen minutes later.

The resulting formation has a guitarist and a bassist almost cuddling on the left while both guitarist and frontman do as best they can to not knock each other over every couple of minutes. The Carpels have earned themselves a fine reputation recently as a band who are relentless in their youthful energy and enthusiasm – kicking over mic stands as quickly as they thrash out their sexy and twitchy brand of math rock.

While the band are full of this fizzy and nervous excitement, this can tend to hold them back in places as the set can be a bit messy at times. The guitar work is often primitive in a very Foals-esque way but whether this decision to pursue a monotone through the whole set is intentional or just because of a lack of gear we don’t know.

Particular standout track ‘Learn to Dance’ is a master class in danceable teenage wrath. Hero of the set without a doubt goes to the drummer as he dances out fiddly and twiddly rhythms from his hi-hat while carrying the entire set without so much as a shrug of his wee shoulders. With a bit of investment into some new gear and studio time to help them branch out and experiment a bit more and as they get older and more comfortable with the whole songwriting process, The Carpels could easily be another Brummie sensation before they’re out of their adolescence.

Cajole Cajole by SJ Photography

Cajole Cajole step up to the plate after a neat and thankfully short changeover. As a three piece they don’t have to worry about being able to fit onto the stage, although frontman and guitarist Ryan suffers from the low ceiling due to his impressive stature and arguably more impressive hair. Right from the off, the band present themselves as a major record labels’ wet dream with their less spikey and challenging offering of tunes that still manage to pick and choose the ripest fruits from the tree of trendy and come off sounding pretty damn great while they’re at it.

Bassist Noel holds the line superbly with his Andy Rourke-esque basslines that groove, bounce and chug along in equal measure without ever feeling out of place or as if they’re trying to take centre stage. Sadly, the snare drum is barely audible and remains that way for the rest of the night putting Cajole Cajole, and indeed every other band tonight, at a bit of a disadvantage. An early number in the set called ‘Eyes’ (“We’ve all got ‘em” pipes up Ryan) proves to be a surprisingly memorable track. Saying that however, each track has its own charm and it all works hooked around Ryan’s melodic and punchy voice that is almost custom set to sing indie anthems. One tiny criticism is the fact that he does seems to be overloaded with his duties as enigmatic frontman and sole guitarist at times.

Savant (or 3/4 of them)

Before we’ve had time to get to the bar and back, Savant are already set up and ready to roll. Four members this time and the astute, wise and equally beautiful frontman has positioned himself on the floor in front of the stage – a move that pays off in spades as it increases the feel of intimacy in this small but perfectly formed venue as the room upstairs is now heaving.

Straight away Savant prove that they’re a band who don’t mess about as they exude professionalism with every tapped out riff and every song that feels like it’s been hand reared and had more love and care go into it than a newborn baby. The entire set is wonderfully varied and packed full of great ideas and the boys never allow themselves to get too stuck into an overdone experimental jam or on the adverse, they never try and mix things up so much that it’s impossible to get into and engage with. It’s difficult to attempt to justify them in one snappy, hyphenated, NME bollocks inspired tag, although ‘bloody brilliant’ springs to mind; however, rather than wasting time reading this, go out and see them for yourself.

Shana Tova get it on and about 10:40pm – the sad point at which people have to start dashing to catch the last bus home which is a great shame as they are a band that deserve the room to be as packed as it was just fifteen minutes ago. Frontman and Birmingham old hand Geordie Blake shows that he’s still got it as he reels off impossible riffs from his beautiful Gretsch.

Shana Tova

Leanne Taylor is the best bassist we’ve seen tonight, nay in a while, as she’s packed her lower end lines full of zip and great ideas which plays perfectly off of Geordie’s guitar fiddling. Alan Wilson supplying the room with ‘percussive nectar’ is a law unto himself that drives the set forward like an excitable Labrador in the park rather than the conventional idea of drums being the spine of a set and it works perfectly as each three seem to be battling each other to the death as they throw out guitar fills, snare hits and bass buzz to outdo each other. An early assessment has them down as ‘a happy This Town Needs Guns’. While this judgement doesn’t quite stand the test of the entire set, Geordie’s artful and impossible guitar lines coupled with Leanne’s unrelenting bass lines along with the obligatory stoppy-starty moments seem to justify this early comparison as both TTNG and Shana Tova are eminently listenable and completely captivating as they suck you into their expansive sound. The muted snare did however let the side down again as it had done earlier, with a bigger set up Shana Tova can really soar and unleash their rawness upon more than ten people at 11pm at night.

Hooray! With the bus home practically waiting for us outside, We Love Wednesday’s seems to be on a vendetta to never disappoint us despite the obvious physical limits of the upstairs room in the Bulls Head with yet another cracking lineup that upholds the current record of zero rubbish bands put on so far. Good stuff.

Tim Mobbs


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