It’s a special night, it’s the launch of The Harriets’ Christmas single and the first gig from Pablo’s Paintings. For me it’s the first time I’ve seen The Harriets live despite having reviewed a single and the first time seeing any of the support acts, AND it’s my first visit to the 360 Club (something akin to a criminal act for anybody into music and living anywhere near Leeds but there it is it’s my first time).
So first up are Parable who open with a what we might call a slow number with a great tune and great vocals. The second song is a faster more indie thing but it’s cool. The guitar is great. Actually the guitar being great is a bit of a theme, Max Canning on lead throws down some way cool guitar through the whole set.
Before the third song, the bass player is sent off stage and the drummer moves over to playing one of those wooden box things. They explain – thanks guys really useful to reviewers that sort of information – that they started off as more of an acoustically based band. This makes things clearer you can really hear the acoustic roots of their music. What Parable do is really not very fast incredibly emotional songs that might be described as having this air of sadness. The issue with this is that there’s a risk that the vocals get over-wrought but vocalist Connor Ludnow avoids this and it’s all the better for that. The other thing is that with a slower song the words snap into focus more and the words of their songs are really rather good.
Current single ‘Choices’ which is heavier than most of their set but it’s really a rather wonderfully sparse and tumbling tune and has these bits where the song swells. And they end with a song where it builds into something quite heavy with roaring guitar. It’s a really great finish to what I found to be a fantastic set. If you like bands that play great meaningful songs with really great playing check Parable out.
While Multinut Butter might describe themselves as a psychedelic pop band that, as the virtually whole page of notes where I attempt to describe quite what they do, doesn’t really go far enough. So yes there’s a kind of soulful thing both in the keyboards and vocals, that might result in that ‘pop’ label but they really do seem to throw all sorts of things into the mix. So, given that at one point I say in my notes ‘I have no idea, no idea in the slightest, quite how to describe this band’ I guess psychedelic pop is what we may have to stick with. In summary, if you’re at all interested in the rambling nature of my head at times, my notes say ‘sounds kinda soulful jazz-funky’, ‘bloody hell that’s sounding a bit like ‘Elephant Talk’ period King Crimson’ – that’s the guitarist only by the way the rest of the band were playing something different in feel, ‘that’s all a bit proggy’ and finally I do actually say ‘psychedelic pop’ at one point.
Most of this inability to describe them in any sort of coherent way is down to their guitarist who at one points in my notes I describe as a ‘guitar hero’, he even does that tongue out thing. He just seems to do what he feels like while the band play this sort of soul-y, slightly funky, sometimes slightly jazzy songs. I’m sure, or pretty sure, that this isn’t the case, that it isn’t like this at all, and it’s all carefully worked out but it has this improvisation feel to it.
What this rather jumbled set of impressions fails to show is actually quite how good the band are. I say good, actually they’re bloody fantastic. Part of this is that bits of what they do remind me in passing of a certain period of my music collection (and by period I mean the time when I actually purchased or otherwise obtained the music, not the time the music was made). But these reminders are so melded into what they do so it’s really a sound all of their own.
It isn’t, I’m going to admit what we might call easy listening music, yep you can latch onto the poppy thing going on, but to fully appreciate them you need to listen properly to what the guitarist is doing. It’s that that makes what they do so so good. Hugely impressive.
There is a palpable buzz in The Lending Room, for this is Pablo’s Paintings first gig. It’s pretty obvious that a small number of the audience have come down just for this. I’m going to admit that I got somewhat buzzy myself. Not having heard the band Pablo’s Paintings came out of I can’t say whether what the do is anything like that band, so I’m basing this on what I heard. And before I go on, I did ponder on whether I should include the band in my review on the basis of ‘if you can’t say anything good, don’t say it all’. But I decided that anyone who was actually there would wonder why the band didn’t feature in my review.
Off the bat, so to speak, what’s impressive is quite how tight the band were, there’s no way this sounds anything like a first gig. Almost simultaneously I was hugely impressed by the sheer musical ability, this is a band who know how to play OK.
It’s just that – and this is difficult for me I don’t like saying negative things about bands even though it’s my opinion of what I heard and saw – what they play which is all kinds of 60s/70s psych/psychedelic influenced out there kinda rock I’d guess, didn’t quite float my boat. I’ve lived through two periods of that sort of music and while I’m not bored with it, the sheer quantity of stuff like that I have makes me, let’s say, somewhat picky. Just to be clear I’m not old enough to actually experienced the late 60s/early 70s music myself but I’m old enough to have had friends who had older brothers who were old enough and had record collections (if that makes any sense), and then there was The New Paisley Underground in the 80s. I’m not saying I didn’t like them in any way, by the way, it’s just that I didn’t find myself immediately grabbed. I may need to go back and see them again.
I kinda at some points found myself doing what I did the 80s which was to mentally list influences when listening to ‘New Paisley’ bands. But it’s not all bad there were times when I found hints of their own take on stuff which filled me with a sense of joy, and I was continually impressed by the actual playing, It’s just that on the night it wasn’t quite working for me overall.
What’s clear, after chatting with some people, is that my opinion is very much in the minority, perhaps even a minority of one. The rest of the audience really seemed into it. Perhaps it’s just a case of ‘not for me’. Check out their stuff and make up your own mind OK. They really can play extremely well.
And finally The Harriets who, as I’ve already mentioned, were launching their Christmas single but also unleashing their new keyboard player Jess at her first gig with them. Having chatted to the band they were quite excited about having a keyboard player, and not having seen the band play live before, I asked some people what they thought of the keyboards. The general consensus was that they really added something to the band’s sound. I can’t compare but I thought the keyboards sounded way cool.
The thing about The Harriets is that what they do is just hugely infectious and fun, and it makes you grin big time. It’s those tuneful jaunty songs with great words. It’s just blissfully happy. And by the third song ‘Happy In Your Workplace’ (I may have that wrong, sorry if I did), a slower song, I get a bit giddy and carried away. I couldn’t stop moving to the music, I forgot to take notes, I even got a whole load of blurred photos because I couldn’t stop moving. I know, I know, bad reviewer, but sometimes it happens, something is just so good you forget you’re there to be a ‘serious review writer’.
I had to force myself to listen properly to the ‘other slower Christmas song’ – sometimes reviewers do that. And it’s a joy. It sounds like an instance classic Christmas song.
And then they play a track called ‘Television’ which is all sort of New York punky No-Wave, see what they did there? ‘Hanging On’ is really grabby in a kinda weirdly punky but jaunty sort of way that just rips along. The weird thing about this song is that it has this strange edge of Country & Western to it (at least to my sometimes strange ears).
They end with ‘Harry’ which is a bloody riot people. It rips along in it’s – slightly faster than than the recorded version – slightly punky way and it’s a joy. And the first line of that song still makes me laugh out loud. For the record it’s ‘Harry wears a green shirt’.
The Harriets make me smile, they remind me that there’s space, and should be space, for music that makes you happy. But, and crucially, there’s a sense of substance to their music. It’s not just throwaway fun, you can tell they don’t just throw their songs together. My first experience of The Harriets won’t be my last. If you want a night out listening to songs that are joyful, well written and well played and make you smile inanely, go see them.
The Harriets: https://www.facebook.com/TheHarriets/
Pablo’s Paintings: https://www.facebook.com/pablospaintings/
Multinut Butter: https://www.facebook.com/multinutbutter/
All photos in this review © Frank Roper Photography