Reviews | MUSIC



ALT-COUNTRY CASS MCCOMBS CCA, Glasgow, Thu 9 Jan ●●●●● Cass McCombs’ records are full of a road-worn, vaguely spiritual-mystical wisdom that fits with his near 20-year history as an itinerant musician. On stage at the CCA, he cuts a far less mature- seeming figure. There’s something of that other vulnerable-yet-wise Peter Pan of alt-country, Conor Oberst, in his meagre, plaid-clad frame and the straggly fringe completely hiding the top of his face. The set starts strongly with a trio from latest album

Big Wheel and Others: ‘There Can Only Be One’ and ‘My Name Written in Water’ could be plodding if they weren’t so damn laidback, with that rolling, winding-up-and-winding-down country schtick effortlessly executed, while ‘Big Wheel’ is a dirty, stomping triumph, dripping with restless attitude. A mid-set lull contains a few songs that trundle along nicely enough without really going anywhere, but the lazily foreboding minor key ballad ‘Mariah’ and 2011’s ‘Love Thine Enemy’ provide later highlights. A not entirely even set, then, but when McCombs is on form his work is a perfect mix of cynical comment, spiritual profundity and evocative twang of the great American beyond. (Laura Ennor)

FOLK DICK GAUGHAN Leith Folk Club, Edinburgh, Tue 7 Jan ●●●●● ‘You thought you were getting away without me mentioning it, eh?’ enquired Dick Gaughan with an impudent growl midway through the second half of his now-traditional New Year show. ‘It’ was this year’s independence referendum, but although the ever-political Gaughan left us in no doubt as to his leaning he’s a ‘Yes’ man his message was an even-handed one. Remember, he said, the point is that you’re not voting for or against either the SNP or the English people. Such candour is refreshing and somewhat old-

fashioned these days, as popular music and politics grow further apart. The packed function room of the Victoria Park House Hotel perhaps isn’t the place you’d expect to hear it, but Gaughan argues the fading folk club tradition has to be supported where it’s found these days. His set mixed rustic grit and cultural consciousness, from the tribute to Scottish martyr ‘Thomas Muir of Huntershill’ and the comment on independence ‘No Gods (and Precious Few Heroes)’ to his rebuttal of intolerance ‘Both Sides the Tweed’ and a closing version of Hamish Henderson’s ‘Freedom Come All Ye’. (David Pollock)


ALT. ROCK STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS Òran Mór, Glasgow, Tue 14 Jan ●●●●● METAL LAMB OF GOD O2 Academy, Glasgow, Thu 16 Jan ●●●●●

After drifting through the muddiest front-of-house sound this side of mic-ing up a puddle, it took Stephen Malkmus and his faithful Jicks until the first triumphant chorus of ‘Cold Son’, five songs in, to dig themselves out of an unfortunate hole at the Òran Mór. But they did it.

Modern Malkmus classics ‘Tigers’ and ‘Tune Grief’ had already all but drowned alongside new songs ‘Cinnamon and Lesbians’ and ‘Chartjunk’, but after battling their cruel sound demons, the band started to deservedly hit their stride.

‘Stick Figures in Love’ and ‘Share the Red’ from 2011’s Mirror Traffic finally showed off the band’s dextrous playing and ramshackle jamming prowess before a solid version of ‘Lariat’ perhaps the finest melodic moment on new album Wig Out at Jagbags, and easily among tonight's best. A welcome surprise encore of Pavement’s ‘Harness Your Hopes’ followed by ‘Church on White’ from Malkmus’ first solo record proved that even in the face of the odd technical hiccup, these songs, and indeed Malkmus himself, continue to age pretty damn well. (Ryan Drever)

Lamb of God’s return to Glasgow marked their first Scottish date since vocalist Randy Blythe was acquitted last year of manslaughter charges following the death of a young fan at a concert in the Czech Republic. Blythe has since wasted no time reminding himself what he fought so hard for.

Tearing into ‘Desolation’ and ‘Ghost Walking’ from 2012’s Resolution, followed by a crushing version of ‘Walk with Me in Hell’, the band appeared as possessed and proficient as ever, despite the absence of guitarist Mark Morton due to family commitments (Paul Waggoner of Between the Buried and Me filled in).

After joking that he nearly cancelled the show because he was having too much fun in the Highlands that morning, ‘drinking water straight outta the fucking rocks’, Blythe used every moment he could to tell us how happy he was to be here. After a hefty encore of ‘Vigil’, ‘Laid to Rest’ and ‘Redneck’, a simple dedication to lost fan Daniel Nosek before closer ‘Black Label’ was enough to respectfully announce that Lamb of God might never forget, but they’re moving on. (Ryan Drever)


It may have been 33 years since The Pop Group, Mark Stewart (pictured) and Gareth Sager’s gang of punk-funk avant-provocateurs, last played Glasgow. But the wait was more than worth it at this inspired Celtic Connections show that laid bare the roots of Bristol’s influential post-punk melting pot of free jazz, funk and dub. The night also formed part of the 20th

anniversary of Glasgow's similarly maverick Creeping Bent record label, hence the appearance of The Sexual Objects, the band formed by ex-Fire Engine Davy Henderson following on from his previous band, The Nectarine No 9, with whom Pop Group guitarist Sager played and recorded. While all bar one of The Sexual Objects are time-served Nectarines, their opening gambit tonight goes back even further, to Henderson and guitarist Simon Smeeton’s post-Fire Engines project, Win, with a cover of that band’s heroic ‘You’ve Got the Power’. Stripped of its 80s studio gloss, it more resembles the Velvet Underground on ‘Live ‘69’, breathing extra edge into a song that matches bassist and Creeping Bent supremo Douglas MacIntyre’s Warhol-striped and be-shaded ensemble to boot. This is followed by recent single, ‘Feels Like Me’ and a fantastically louche preview of material from the Objects’ long- awaited second album. Songs like ‘CC Blooms’ cast Auld Reekie as its own self-mythologised Big Apple. The Pop Group launch into ‘We Are All Prostitutes’, with by the sort of deranged commitment that would scare most younger groups to death. Stewart looms righteously, shrieking a form of warped Brechtian agit-prop into the microphone. Sager’s slash and burn guitar work and electronically treated clarinet playing are equally incendiary.

Stewart pays tribute to fellow travellers The Slits, whose late singer Ari Up’s own last Glasgow appearance was on the same stage, and dedicates ‘Colour Blind’ to Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis, another fallen contemporary.

Sager shows off some neat foot, as well as fret-work on the warped Chic-isms of ‘Where There’s a Will’, while closer ‘We Are Time’ possesses the urgency of a 1960s cop show theme before veering off somewhere darker, closing a set designed to inspire a very visible form of insurrection. (Neil Cooper)

23 Jan–20 Feb 2014 THE LIST 71