I always feel a certain amount – OK so I admit it, a huge amount – of excited anticipation every time I go to a Purple Thread gig but as this night was a single launch gig – of ‘Back To NYC’ (see our review) – my level of excitement was at fever pitch. This was helped by the fact that one of the support bands was Allora, a band I have really liked since the first time I saw them play at Wharf Chambers back in November last year.
Allora always seem to make me write my notes in a particular way (a particularly strange way, I hear you say) as I watch and see them play. So this is what I actually wrote
“Oh Allora every time I see you I vow not to gush in an uncontrollable way but to write some sort of rational music review (whatever that might be) but as this band starts to play I lose all rational thought, all of that goes out the window, and I just get drawn into what the band do.
It’s those voices, the way they intertwine and harmonise, it’s the way their music is at the same time simple and very complex, it’s the hints of mix of influences.
For a short time I managed to wrench myself out of the music and into ‘music reviewer mode’, so my review at least has semblance of being a normal music review. What I noticed, and I mean really noticed, this time is that their music is complex – it relies on the weaving of the guitars and voices – the voices are not only words but part of the music.
And I know that I’m not supposed to go on about them being a ‘girl band’ and I’m not going to except for one thing. I don’t think a band with male singers could make music like they do. It’s the vocals I really love about Allora. I mean I’m sure that the band write to their strengths – their voices being one of those – but there’s something magical about the way those voices combine. There is a point in one of their songs where the vocals send shivers up and down my spine.”
It’s at this point that my notes trail off into something that I’m sure meant something when I wrote them but reading them as I write this, I can’t for the life of me work out what they mean. The words fantastic, brilliant and beautiful seem to form a theme.
I realise that this tells you what I think about the band but not what they sound like, and if you’ve not seem them just knowing I think they’re wonderful isn’t going to make you go and see them. I said in a previous review that they do ‘slightly garage loose psychy alternative rock that has elements of soul and Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter in there’. I’m sticking with that.
Musing on the band’s set after they had finished – I always need to ‘take a moment’ after seeing Allora, I had some final thoughts. The main one, and the one I’m going to tell you, is that they seem to get better and better every time I see them. If you still haven’t seen Allora, go see them, they’re incredible and their music is beautiful.
Next up were Brighton based Youth Sector. They describe themselves on their Facebook Page as being ‘art-rock’ . Now art-rock can be a variety of things (and as I spent quite a lot of my youth listening to music that could be described as art-rock I know this from experience) so let’s say what this means for Youth Sector. My first thought was that they sounded somewhat Devo like – it’s in those strident bsic keyboards and it’s all jerky. But there’s also sometime of a alt-rock/punky thing going on. My second thought was that there is, in places, something of a Cardiacs sound (being a Cardiacs fan, or Pondie as we are known, I notice their influence in all sorts of places), and also something of an early XTC thing going on. I’m sorry I’m jaded I admit, my head is so full of music that I just can’t help doing this.
What I can say is that once I’d got over the ‘this sounds like’ bit. I began to rather like what they do. It’s real throw yourself around the room stuff, those jerky rhythms are way infectious. And they put on a real performance – I was especially drawn to the bass player who seemed to be really throwing some ‘art-rock shapes’. The vocals and the playing were great.
What I’m going to admit is that I was left feeling that I really need to see them play again to ‘really get them’. The same can’t be said of the majority of the crowd who seemed to be really into them.
Before I go on, don’t expect anything objective in my review of Purple Thread, I am a fan. I’m not ashamed to admit this, it’s allowed, music writers can be fans of the bands they write about.
Purple Thread took a while to come on, they waited until most of ‘New York, New York’ was over before finally taking to the stage – see what they were doing there? And as seems to be the usual case now they opened with ‘Something Good’. For people seeing Purple Thread for the first time this is a great intro to the what they do, it’s sleazy blues influenced rock, it’s a real ‘get loose, throw yourself around’ song. For me it’s also an indication of what the set is going to feel like. This time the band were ‘reasonably restrained’ (after the last time when I saw them when they were completely wild from the get go). This isn’t a criticism, however they are on stage the band are always great. The playing is fantastic, Liz’s vocals are oh so cool.
Next up was ‘Glitter’ a personal fav of a song, a yummy funky punky thing. And then ‘All About You’ a funky dancey thing. Now Purple Thread’s choice of covers – they always do a cover, or indeed covers, in their sets – seems to be getting more out there, tonight’s choice was ‘Juice’ (checking this, and I needed to check I couldn’t remember exactly what it was called, I can see why Liz said that she was a bit uncertain about the words to this, there are a hell of a lot of words). I had my doubts that this would work, but me of little faith, it did. They basically took it and turned it into a Purple Thread song, great stuff.
And then it was time for the single – ‘Back to NYC’ – which featured Bob Brazill – founder of Monomyth Records, the band’s label – on keyboards. Given that they have been featuring the song in their sets for some time now (and has become very much a set highlight for me), the addition of keys made it really stand out. They really bought something extra to what is already a great track. If you’ve not already listened to the single, go do that now, it’s a banger.
There is now a break in my notes – look I was really trying to take notes that night, usually I just have a blank page where they should be because I enjoy the band so much. There’s a break because I wanted to treat myself to at least some Purple Thread time unhampered by taking notes. I think this lasted for two songs.
The next song I actually have any notes on is the song that Liz always introduces as being one that she hopes people don’t find offensive. It’s called something like – or at least this line is in the chorus – ‘I Don’t Believe In Jesus, But I Wear Him On My T-shirt’. And while it may be cynical, if I get the words correctly (and I was really trying to get them this time around), it’s not offensive, at least not to me. It also has a great tune, and I love a song with a great tune.
They end with ‘Life’s A Drag’ and that’s it, I’ve had my fix of Purple Thread, until the next time, I hope it’s not too far away I get Purple Thread withdrawal symptoms.
Reading back what I’ve written it’s actually fairly restrained for a Purple Thread review for me. I’ve failed to sprinkle it with any four lettered words, it’s fairly ungushy, it’s actually a straightforward review. This won’t happen again, normal service will be resumed.
People are always asking, ‘why do you like Purple Thread so much Frank?’ because they are one of the bands I’m always going on about. There’s a pretty simple answer to this. They write great songs, the band are fab musicians and they are one of the best live bands I’ve seen in a long time. Their songs are go ape-shit crazy in the right place at the right time, and you can sit and listen to them as great songs in the comfort of your own room, a pretty magical thing to do. Go see Purple Thread do their punky funky blues thing, that’s an order.
All photos on this page © Frank Roper Photography – see more on his Facebook Page