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:: Sons And Daughters :: Little Flames ::
24 November 2004 / Night & Day / Manchester
By DH.

And people say that us Mancunians are stuck in a time warp. Common ignorance (note that I didn’t say knowledge) believes that we still think the pinnacle of local music was The Stone Roses and The Hacienda. Sorry. Remind me again. What were they? So as people from out of town start to awake to the fact that some of us moved on quiet a while ago no one ever thinks of pointing the finger further west. If any town’s current visible output seemed to have one foot stuck in the quick drying cement of the past it would have to be where ferries cross the Mersey.

The last few years there has seen an explosion in retro telecaster twanging, skiffle-o-philes with their eyes firmly focused on the Merseybeat of yesteryear. The Coral for all their denial of anything recent did it pretty damned well incorporating some of the 60s stranger, less publicised elements. Then The Zutons did it, only more classically and a grade of two less interestingly. Now our next door neighbours bring us The Little Flames. While thankfully skiffle-free this is distinctly old sounding. Yes, intricate and well structured it is but really something my mum would have put on her mini 45 after a family visit to Woolworth’s. Initially the compulsion to forget musical politics for a moment and simply indulge is strong but after a few distinctly similar efforts feet remain rooted firmly on the dirty wood floor. The band certainly look the part most notably their seemingly cool as ice cream singer. There’s also a fair degree of chemistry going off onstage but a mild lack of freshness still leaves the fire crackling rather than roaring.

Geography seems to have less and less inflexible impact these days. As we become increasingly globalised stiff regional aspects tend to fade. They are campaigns in certain Scottish regions to prevent local dialects and accents from disappearing. Sons and Daughters hardly sound Glaswegian whatever that sounds like. More tangibly they don’t really sound like any of their local contemporaries either. In a world beset with communications it’s no oddity that this quartet draws from some distinctly American sounds only they subject them to some fairly harsh treatement. It’s also something that they do without visible mercy. Adele holds a poker-faced frown as her powerful vocal chords tear the country stuffing out of tracks such as ‘Johnny Cash’; a darkly stimulating tribute. Scott stares rabbit in the headlights prostrate as he churns out chunks of raw guitar flesh whereas Ailidh stands there calm and elegant as she plucks away on her mandolin impervious to the drama unfolding.

Despite veteran emotional management Sons and Daughters don’t seem to be exactly enjoying themselves even in what would seem like some pretty cathartic spleen venting. Adele is silent except to instruct the sound engineer. Frequently she looks somewhat uncomfortable and sometimes like she’s somewhere else. Similarly Ailidh seems a little distant. Nevertheless it’s a striking performance, full of interestingly unique textures and atmospherics and one destined to entice us back to their homeland wherever that is.

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