Xray Horse XII @ The Harley, 09.04.11
Featuring: Blood Bare, The Hot Soles, Sunderbans, Legend of the 7 Black Tentacles
*An apology for putting up this review late, our editor has been doing nothing but eating chocolate eggs and watching Neighbours for three weeks now. We’re getting worried.
Openers tonight are local band Blood Bare, the members of which are all seemingly pretty young (to my old withered eyes anyway) but they know how to play, especially the bassist who noodles his way up and down the frets like nobody’s business. However, their stage presence at times is pretty insular and I do feel that the post-rock type songs could use a lot of work – oftentimes the direction/genre is confusing for the audience and an emphasis on more prominent melodies could serve this band well and help define their sound a little more. They just need time.
Next up is Sheffield’s The Hot Soles. Despite the fact that there are only two of them, a drummer and a vocalist/guitarist (in matching waistcoats, I might add) they explode on to the stage with fun, light-hearted vibes and oodles of stage presence, dancing about the stage and venturing into the crowd. Their sound is what it would happen if the Black Keys had been sent on a ‘Bill and Ted’ style adventure straight through the dancehalls of the 1950’s with a significant foray into the rock n’roll indulgence of the 70’s, and arrived back in the present day feeling somewhat bewildered but with only one mission – to rock out. Indeed, the audience absolutely soaks it up and Hot Soles even induce a couple of male audience members to dance in the style of what can only be described as ‘a small monkey with a severe case of Rickets’.
Hot Soles are a tough act to follow, as London-based band Sunderbans slowly discover next. Their folky indie rock receives a bit of a cold reception from the crowd despite the fact that the band is tight with some solid tunes. I like the melodic and melancholic feel to some of their stuff but for me personally, it’s nothing life-changing and it pales in comparison to the exciting live show that the previous band pulled off. I suppose it doesn’t help the judgement of the crowd that all the band members look like featured ‘alt-bros’ from ‘Being a Dickhead’s Cool’, but in reality the cold reception is probably a little unjustified.
Headliners Legend of the 7 Black Tentacles are a Sheffield/Midlands based 8-piece who play what can only be described as an eclectic mix of Jazz, funk, rock and urban music. On stage we have a cellist, a flautist, a saxophonist, keyboard player, a bassist, drummer, DJ and MC. Phew.
The band plays with enthusiasm and zeal, which means there’s a bit of a festival atmosphere in The Harley. Each musician is extremely technically accomplished and they play well together. However, the crowd does thin out quite noticeably which is accompanied by one of the members repeatedly thanking the audience for “sticking with us” – it’s clear that the band know as well as anyone that this is not largely accessible music they’re making. I can see how some would be put-off by the disjointed rhythms and unusual song structures and I myself find the set a little heavy going at times, with simply too much going on within the music for me to wholly enjoy it. That being said, it’s not as if there are a lot of other local bands making music this interesting and experimental, so I commend Legend of the 7 Black Tentacles for daring to be different – and coming pretty close to pulling it off too.