ACOUSTIC POP KINGS OF CONVENIENCE
Arches, Glasgow, Tue 22 Jun
Anyone who remembers the abject horror of ‘Nam will be scarred for life. All those young men and their wasted lives. All those gently strummed acoustic guitars and close-knit vocal harmonies. Oh, hang on, I’m thinking of NAM, not Wetnam. As in the New Acoustic Movement, a half-arsed music scene created entirely by a somewhat desperate NME a couple of years ago about two seconds before garage rock took over the world.
Anyway, masters of NAM for as long as it lasted were gentle Nordic souls Kings of Convenience. With their flagship debut album, the appropriately titled Quiet is the New Loud, Eirik Boe and Erlend aye rampaged across Europe like their Viking forefathers, only with Nick Drake-esque tunes and nice jumpers instead of pillaging and helmets with horns on them. As for the whole NAM thing, well Boe and Eye were having none of that from the start.
‘Yeah, it annoyed us,’ says Boe. ‘There was never a scene of new acoustic music happening. A lot of people have been doing acoustic stuff for a long time, basically from
the early days of music, so I wouldn’t say it was a new thing
Veterans who have thrived
going on. It was more to do with the NME having a lack of things to write about.’
That’s sorted then. And anyway, Kings of Convenience were always too good to be lumped in with the strumming also-rans kicking about at the same time. And now they’re back. Having taken a couple of years off from the Kings (Eye to tour the world as a DJ and remixer, Boe to return to Bergen to finish his psychology degree), the pair seem genuinely reinvigorated by the time away.
The result is a more expansive and diverse follow-up record, Riot on an Empty Street. The album features much more varied instrumentation and styles, something both lads were keen on trying out.
‘It was what came natural to us when we were in the studio,’ says Boe. ‘We didn’t intend to be too philosophical about our way of working this time. Last time we had this Dogma approach where we decided we would only use very few instruments, whereas this time we had a more playful approach and allowed ourselves to follow the ideas that we were getting.’
The result is a record that retains the pairing’s innate melodic charms while demonstrating a refreshing willingness to experiment. Long may the Kings reign. (Doug Johnstone)
COLIN STEELE OUINTET
Henry’s Jazz Cellar, Edinburgh, Thurs 17—Sat 19 Jun; Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Sun 20 Jun.
A skilled ioumeyman
48 THE LIST 10—24 Jun 2004
The Colin Steele Quintet are one of the three bands in contention for the Best Album prize at the BBC Jazz Awards this year (the various winners will be announced in a ceremony in London on 29 July). The nominations in the album category are voted by the public rather than just the panel of specialists. and they represent another resounding testament to the Qualities of this band.
The nominated disc. The Journey Home, was issued last year on Caber. and is the Quintet's second album. It proved to be a further step forward from Colin's long- awaited debut. Twilight Dreams (2002). In the earlier disc. he had included two or three tracks with a distinctly Scottish tinge in the melodies. and he chose to fOCus much more directly on that direction in The Journey Home.
‘The Scottish folk influence is something I have been interested in for a long time. as
many of us are up here. I felt that was as strong an influence on me as the American jazz one. The last two or three songs I wrote for Twi/ight Dreams seemed to be the key tunes on the album. but they were also the simplest. I felt they might have been slagged off just because they were so simple. but they went down well. and they seemed to represent a slightly different voice that I was developing.
'When yOu have very complex chord sequences. you tend to have to follow them very closely. while the more modal approach has more freedom. I tend to hear things quite simply. and melody is paramount to me. I don't write at the piano: it‘s all done in my head. and | only work in some more chords at the end. I like that simplicity. and the musicians seem to thrive on it. although they always complain that there isn't enough there when I first bring them in.‘ (Kenny Mathieson)
1 They’ve got some famous friends Trent Reznor. Bob Mould an Idlewild are all fans of the Seattle three-piece. while the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne helped mix their excellent fourth album, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. out next month. Isaac Brock formed the band in the early 90s. and the current line-up features Brock (guitar and vocals), Eric Judy (bass) and Dan Galucci (guitar and keys).
2 They sound naggingly familiar Modest Mouse's Ieftfield indie pop has attracted comparisons to the Flaming Lips, Pavement. Gang of Four. Neil Young and the Muppets. ‘Reponers are always asking me if I care when I get compared to the Pixies or Built to Spill.‘ said Brock on the back of US breakthrough album. The Lonesome Crowded West. ‘What am I supposed to say? "That pisses me off. man. I hate that shit?" I don’t give a damn. They can compare me to Sade and Prince for all I care.‘
3 They’ve attracted controversy No wallflowers. this lot. Extensive narcotics consumption has frequently hampered their performances. licensing their tracks to commercials pissed off their more righteous fans. and Brock had his jaw broken while touring in Chicago. The singer was imprisoned for a week and a half as a fugitive on a return trip from Canada, and was accused of rape in 1999 (the allegation was later withdrawn).
4 The new stuff’s great New single ‘Float On' is a driving. insistent fusion of jangling guitars. bouncing bass and shimmering melodies that sees Brock singing 'I backed my car into a cop car the other day/ Well he just drove off. sometimes life's OK.’ like a man who's just discovered sunshine. Its parent album is a brilliant mix of merriment and melancholy. packed with leftfield gems.
5 They’re cheering up ‘l'm trying to think more positively about shit.’ Brock opinioned earlier this year. ‘It's a bummer, being bleak about everything.‘ (James Smart)
I King Tut's, Glasgow, Wed 23 Jun.