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:: The Strange Death Of Liberal England :: Twin Planets :: This City Of Glass ::
03 May 2011 / The Roadhouse / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

You know how sometimes there's a quiet acoustic act on and everyone's chatting over them? Not tonight. As we walk around the Roadhouse curtain we're amazed to see people standing there, such is the respectful silence afforded Ryan O'Neill as he fingerpicks a delicate melodic canvas for his rich, yearning voice. A time-served solo artist around town it's not immediately clear why there's another guitarist, bassist and drummer standing around him - until the next song when This City Of Glass transform into an uplifting indie-rock band like Airborne Toxic Event with a more jangly organic touch. The short set is beset by problems that aren't really the band's fault but the quality of songwriting shines through.

Twin Planets initially seem to be operating in a similar area, but things soon take a turn for the darker and gloomier, musically at least, while singer James Rookyard goes for that rousing stadium indie thing. Problem is the world's hardly short of bands like this and while there's certainly passion and power here there isn't that killer tune to make them stand out from the crowd. One more thing: Interpol called and they want their guitar line (specifically "PDA") back... and yeah, we know they robbed it from northwest England circa 1985 in the first place, but that's beside the point... and only later do we realise we have actually seen them before, supporting tonight's headliners on their last visit to Manchester way back (or not as the case may be) in October 2010...

We kind of miss the days when we were in the Roadhouse every other night; yeah, we love the fact that Manchester has loads of new venues these days but it's great to come and actually see a touring band in here, even if tonight is accompanied by the usual lament that one of Britain's greatest contemporary guitar bands should be so much bigger than this. There are more people present than there were in October, which is an encouraging sign that their (then just-released) debut album has caught some attention - but imagine being hit with this wall of sound coming out of Ritz or Academy speakers! Still, even here The Strange Death Of Liberal England sound massive.

From the opening chords of "Curtain Falling" wave after wave of spiralling sound crashes over us with current single "Come On You Young Philosophers!" sounding every bit as much of a rallying call as its title suggests. This is intelligent music, but far from inaccessible, even if it can be rather difficult to make out the lyrics sometimes you know they're not just about meeting a girl or being a bit miserable. As such, they're sometimes derided as a bit pretentious - that name; their early-days habit of holding up placards in place of more conventional means of communication with the audience - but watching them live they're anything but. Singer Adam Woolway is just incredible to watch - not exactly your conventional frontman, with his day-job clothes and Charlie Chuck hair, but hell, does this man give it a hundred per cent: howling the powerful bits til his veins almost burst, or standing swaying through the quieter moments with his eyes closed. (We kind of wish we hadn't noticed two songs from the end that his flies were undone, but once you spot something like that you can't really pretend you didn't...) He would actually be too much for most bands - but William Charlton, Kelly Jones, quite brilliant keyboard, glockenspiel and at one point accordion player Andrew Wright and relative newcomer on drums David Lindsay create a strong foundation for his fevered proclamations. Placards long since ditched (the key to a decent early-days gimmick being knowing when to stop before it gets boring) they just let the music communicate these days and as they build into another towering crescendo you can see where people get the Arcade Fire comparisons from. And the name? Taken from a 1935 book, apparently, and a rather odd one back when we first saw them back in 2007 it now seems oddly prescient. Perhaps one day the wider world will catch up with their music, too.

The Strange Death Of Liberal England
Twin Planets
This City Of Glass

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