Non-stop neurotic parody
How Fiona Shepherd learned to stop worrying and love the bomb with newcomers Strangelove.
lfyou think you‘ve got those end-of—the-millennium psychosis blues. spare a thought for Patrick Duff. a man who sports a permanent manic stare so wide the whites of his eyes are visible from the far end of the dark alleys he lurks in. Not to be confused with Patrick Duffy. the Man from Atlantis (an alien
creature ofa different kind). this Patrick
shadowboxes his neurosis for a living via intense stream-of-conseiousness lyn'cs about mortality. phobia and emotional dereliction. To compound this mood, he fronts a singular band. Strangelove, who are prepared to indulge his apparent morbidity. going as far as adeptly soundtracking his obsessions with
the dramatic sweep of their music.
Live, things can teeter close to ridiculous parody but the young pessimist gets away with it by virtue of I the sheer psychedelic maelstrom building around
him much good.
him. Still. all that egocentric ranting can't be doing
‘Well. first off, i don‘t actually think it's that morbid.‘ says guitarist Alex Lee between gulps of coffee. ‘I think there’s something fairly healthy about getting things like that out. it's a universal thing that he‘s writing about and it annoys me when people say. “i can’t get my head round that“ because it‘s
' something everyone goes through. he‘s just a lot , more prepared to confront it. Most people just hide behind what they're scared of. ‘lt's not like we‘re trying to put people off by being
. i too heavy or extreme. It's another angle from where. ' l say, PJ. Harvey came from. When she started getting ' 5" big everyone said. “Wow, such a brutal and naked and honest approach".' l Far from putting people off, Patrick’s open heart
surgery does the job of sucking the listener in. Now in the privacy of your own darkened bedroom. you may indulge in Strangelove's debut double album. ' 'Iime For The Rest Of Your Life. And what a superb album it is — the one all you mad-eyed desperadeos , have been waiting for. The kind of album where a I pretty piano ballad like ‘Low Life‘ gives way to the ! sudden driving chorus of ‘World ()utside'. Most consistently it recalls the best moments ofThe ; Psychedelic Furs with added justifiable swagger. i although on parts of ‘Fire (Show Me Light)‘ Patrick ; sounds as panic-crazy as the ultra wigged-out Terry
‘1 don't want to say. “Oh. it was such a struggle to make“,’ says Alex. previously time-served in ‘Bristol's youth training scheme‘ The Blue Aeroplanes. ‘lt was actually a struggle to get in the studio in the first place. Once we got there it was brilliant —just days in the countryside, making music. doing mushrooms or whatever. It was splendid. Though in the case ofa few of the songs. I can't imagine we will write the same sort ofthing again. in some ways you‘ve got to put a full stop after it, haven‘t you'?‘
Punctuated with paranoid brilliance — now it's time for the rest oftheir life.
Strange/ore play K ing 'Iiit's, Glasgow on Sun 13.
The 13th Hote, Glasgow, 1 Aug. Weekend, tired and alone, off the emptying streets and into Teardrops at The 13th Hote. The club’s a good idea - ordering up beers and watching the friends and couples smile. Getting mild-reflective drunk listening to Scott Walker and thinking . . . well, the thoughts that sadness always brings. These are important things.
Since the age of twenty, nan Penn has been hearing his songs sung by people like Otis Hedding, Aretha Franklin, Gram Parsons and The Boxtops. His is a Teardrops world, a world where your best friend squeezes your girlfriend’s fingertips, of clandestine streets and hopeless devotion. At first, though, the very perfectness of the night is threatening to ruin it.
limited to 100 or so audience places and heavy on celebrity - including a weary but happy-looking Bobby Gillespie - the air of this being AH EVEHT which you MUST EHJGY is placing a strain on things. Certainly, while the opening instalment, with
Penn backed by the BMX Bandits, sees great songs ably performed and sets feet a-tapping and hands a-clapping, the music is distinctly failing to get inside.
After a while, though, Penn returns to the stage with just an acoustic guitar between him and the songs, and simply and quietly begins shredding souls.
Faint and hesitant at first against the constant indifferent chatter from the bar, a strange, shifting, emotional layering takes place. Firstly, there are those songs and the darkly simple narratives therein; but the real poignancy is in the shape of a man remembering and reworking his past before your eyes. When he’s responding to audience requests, it’s as though he’s playing to himself, cursing quietly at the occasional mis- chording.
Whether it’s the heat and the alcohol or the magic of the solo section, by the time BMX Bandits return to back Penn for his first public airing of ‘The Letter’, some strange alchemy has been worked and they conjure up a thin, wild, liquid silver sound, put to even greater use on retakes of ‘Dark
l End Of The Street’ and ‘I’m Your
Puppet’. Simply legendary after all, then. (Damien love)
mm- MICHAEL HYMAH BAND
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 6 Aug.
All cliches aside, this really was a concert of two halves, starting abruptly with the wired, often manic strains of Hyman’s idiosyncratic scores to Peter Greenaway’s equally stylised films. First off are three white-knuckle renditions from ‘The Draughtsman’s Contract’. A packed house responds rapturoust as Hyman sits rigid, hammering intensely on the piano keys, and his ensemble deliver the frenzied quasi-baroque compositions as ardently as the orchestra conducting the sunrise in ‘The Phantom Tolbooth’.
The whole of the first half, also including the less frantic ‘A Zed And Two Houghts’ and ‘Water liances’, is a well-drilled but never clinical testament to Hyman’s ability to make such brutal, disciplined numbers also sound melodic and memorable.
By the time the audience - on balance, the young arthouse set you’d
expect - take their seats again, there’s been enough opportunity to get acclimatised to hearing familiar film music plucked from the screen and played with such startling immediacy. The solo piano pieces Hyman wrote for Holly Hunter as Ada in ‘The Piano’ are so expressive anyway, providing her with a surrogate tongue, that the flesh and blood feeling from the film can’t be surpassed, only equalled in performance tonight. By contrast with the first half, it sounds lyrical, mellifluous and sensitive. in the emotional swell you can hear the influence of the Celtic lullabies and reels that inspired Hyman in the composition of Ada’s ‘improvisatlons’. ‘The Fall Of lcarus’, new to me, bears
his trademark scurrying strings and persistent tenor sax before taking a more fluid turn. The next movement is more urgent, like the train careering towards the damsel bound to the track, while another step of the route has a more epic, orchestral appeal. The most that can be said is that it’s, well, Hymanesque, but it doesn’t reach the warm depths of ‘The Piano’ or the spell-binding highs of ‘The Draughtsman’s Contract’. (Fiona Shepherd)
Tennents Live! Making Music Happen
The List 12—18 August 1994 87