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:: The Strange Death Of Liberal England :: Elmo Logic :: Swansong ::
15 June 2010 / Saki Bar / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

Arcade Fire Arcade Fire Arcade Fire. There you go. It appears to be the law that every review of The Strange Death Of Liberal England must mention them at least once, so let's get it out of the way here. Right, where were we? Saki, that's right, and if the turnout seems a little disappointing, when you consider the departure of many of the city's students and the World Cup factor, it's not gravely so - and a travelling fan informs us it's rather more than showed up in Newcastle last night. Summer can be a tough time for the independent gig promoter but Young Adult Friction (formerly Mushaboom) can always be relied upon to stick together a decent line-up, even if his attempts to tap into the national mood (at this point in time England have one point from one game and hopes of winning the next two) by offering cheaper entry to anyone bringing a St George flag along have not been massively successful. The bring-a-flag idea was the band's - their new single is called "Flagships" - the promoter merely specified a preference, but there's just one, and its owner initially looks unsure what to do with it.

First on is Swansong AKA Ben Pearson, who is one of those people who half-talks half-raps half-sings (yes, I know that's three halves; whatever) over glitchy electronics, and maybe this is a personal thing but in general I'd prefer it if they didn't. Especially in this case, because the sounds he creates with his boxes and wires get more interesting when he's not dedicating mindspace elsewhere. Later on, where the only vocals come from fast-flickering sample sections half-buried in a driving computer-game-influenced dubsteppy techno, is where he really hits his stride.

Elmo Logic are just getting better and better with every gig. It's the beautiful pools of rich florid keyboard and the way it offsets Ciaran McAuley's distant, bleak vocals; it's the driving bass, it's the passion - and it's the songs. One after another, they're complex but easy to love, and not a bad one in the set tonight. In particular "Forest Law", with its Interpol-ish sweeps of minor chords, crystalline guitars and a plaintive atmosphere, is one of the best songs I've heard on the local unsigned scene this year and truly this is a band who shouldn't, if there's any justice, be unsigned for much longer.

In 2007 The Strange Death Of Liberal England were one of those hot ones-to-watch, but like so many the fame and fortune never materialised. And that's the point where you find out once and for all where a band's motivation lies: you can knock it all on the head, you can reinvent yourself with a new name and look and sound until the cash registers start ringing (a similarly hotly-tipped but frankly rubbish band of the same time called Fear Of Flying disappeared without trace, although tedious sub-Editors White Lies look a hell of a lot like them...) - or you can keep that belief in yourself. TSDOLE knew what they had was worth pursuing. And whether it was driven by frustration or just the natural development of their sound there's real power here now and the songs are better, too. Replace that tired comparison with British Sea Power, Flaming Lips, a bit of Pixies even, certainly in Adam Woolway's uncompromising vocals - once vague howls in which words were barely decipherable, these days he's spitting fire across songs that build into great pyres of tribal drums and distortion.

I have no idea what that mystery ingredient is that differentiates between a band people just like and one for which people are willing to sacrifice all common sense and travel around the country and really, truly love and believe in, only that this band has got it. The sound is almost too big for the small space; our lone flag waver gets a bit carried away and knocks his own drink over but doesn't seem to care too much, and our travelling fan looks like he's in heaven. They scale still higher peaks with "Rising Sea", four of them on vocals now, Adam and the guitarist screaming into each other's faces while the keyboard player (bald of head, heavily tattooed of left arm, and to all intents and purposes looking like he's wandered in from a different band in a way that's oddly pleasing) thrashing at a tambourine and the final "Flickering Light" is momentous, Adam bleeding into every line. In 2007 The Strange Death Of Liberal England were a decent enough band: in 2010 they sound like a great one.

The Strange Death Of Liberal England
Elmo Logic

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