I was rather pleased to be going to Wharf Chambers, Wharf Chambers is just the sort of place to be going to see bands on a Thursday night. It’s a friendly cosy sort of place. If you’ve not been to a gig there, you should. Sorry, in my customary fashion I got a bit off on a tangent there. It’s probably a first for me to go off on a tangent right at the beginning of a review but there you go. So to get back on track. I was going to Wharf Chambers to see a gig that had been put on by Boudicca Records (a record label based in Scotland) that focuses on female artists and bands. One of the bands I know and love – Kath & The Kicks – and the other two I had only the vaguest idea of what they do.
Wyse appeared with a band. Although for me the fact that she had a band became very much a secondary thing. This was because she’s a compelling performer and I found myself really concentrating on her voice and the words of her songs. I had read that she’s been compared vocally to Bjork and I kind of get that in some ways, and in others not at all. I mean yes her voice has an incredible range, but it’s very much a voice of her own.
The opening song had me in mind of that angular pop-ish rock that was very much in vogue in the early to mid 80s. Wyse swaps between guitar and keyboards within songs. I thought I had a handle on what Wyse does but no. The second song is something else. It’s dark, almost gothy in places, and builds to something heavy, really heavy, where she employs that screechy keyboard thing beloved of certain 80s rock bands.
I was beginning to get the idea that Wyse is one of those artists who is difficult to pigeon hole musically.
When she sings her next song with no mike and an acoustic in the middle of the room, a song about OCD. I was also getting that she likes to tackle difficult and possibly very personal things in her songs. I was moved, the rest of the room was moved. It was a very special shared moment, the sort of thing that happens so very seldom at gigs.
And so that ‘let’s make it really hard for reviewers to be glib in their reviews’ continues. Songs – or rather one song – go from heavy to almost funky, sound sorta punky and raw as fuck, until it goes all smooth and soaring, and almost proggy. With Wyse switching between guitar and keyboards and then percussion. It’s impressive.
But then towards the end of her set there is a song that stops me in my tracks. It is my ‘favourite’ song of the set. I say ‘favourite’ for reasons that will become clear. It is a song about emotional control called ‘Switch of my Controller’. It is written from the point of view of the person doing the controlling, not the person being controlled I found when I asked her about the song after her set. I found this song incredibly disturbing. I think if you listened to the words you’d find it disturbing but it connected with me so strongly because of my own personal experiences. You might think that being disturbed by a song would make me not like it, but no I really like songs that I can relate on on a personal level – whether my reaction is good or bad. Musically it starts with just keyboard, then guitar and then to the full band at full throttle. I was left drained and emotional by the end of the song.
It was with some disappointment on my part that she announced her final song. It goes from light and poppy with these injections of darkly warped guitar before building to something at first post-punky and then full on rock. It is bewildering, it’s compelling, it’s absolutely brilliant. It takes my breath away.
I really like artists that are difficult to describe musically, and Wyse is definitely one of those. In fact I was really impressed and somewhat hugely taken with Wyse. Musically it’s great in that ‘how in world does that work’ way. Her songs tackle difficult subjects. Her songs are compelling. Wyse is somebody I want to see again.
It had been a while since I saw Kath & The Kicks play, too long to be honest. The band starts in a rush of guitar, bass and drums, and that’s it, I’m in a happy place, a very happy place.
For those who don’t know (and if you don’t where have you been) Kath & The Kicks play rock – sometimes it’s on that alternative side, sometimes it’s on the heavy rock side, and even at one point on the heavy rockabilly side but at all times they rock hard.
It’s rock but they do subtle touches that raise it above the average. Bass that swings, sweet sweet vocals from Kath and great backing vocals from Shaneen on bass, and clever drumming. It also has the great guitar playing of Kath, Kath is one hot guitarist.
The set highlight for me is their last single ‘Walls Between Us’, a song which is very much not your average rock song lyrically (do check it out people), it’s a fine fine thing.
Kath & The Kicks are one of the bands I have a tendency to gush about to people I know, I’m always telling people to go see them. The band are a great live experience, one you should see.
And so to EBB. Beyond knowing that they play prog rock and that their Facebook Page describes them as ‘Quite possibly the love child of Heart & King Crimson’ I didn’t have that much to go on.
There are a lot of EBB – Erin on Guitar/Lead Vocals, Nikki on Keyboards, Anna on Drums, Dog on Bass, and Suna and Kitty providing backing vocals. Size is not always an indication of quality but prog generally goes with a lot of band members.
Their opening song is prog, it’s prog that reminds me of Magnum (oops showing my age there) musically. And musically it’s that side of prog that I continue to be reminded of for the whole of their set. I’m not really sure about that King Crimson reference, I didn’t get that at all. But EBB have something that isn’t old school prog and that’s the vocals of Erin, Suna and Kitty. When they sing together you get that melodic rock thing going, that’s a real joy.
Forgive me but I kind of need to think aloud for a while about EBB. The issue for me is that I’m old enough to have heard and loved a lot of prog and progressive music in my life. From the old school prog of the early 70s and progressive rock of the late 60s, through to the New Wave of British Prog Rock in the 80s (and yes that was a thing, honest). EBB have the chops musically that prog needs, this is a band who can really play well. There are touches of heavy rock in there, and this is no bad thing. The vocals are outstanding. It ticks a lot of boxes.
But, and this a big but for me, as much as I like prog (and I really like prog), the music reviewer side of me says ‘but the thing about prog is that it’s progressive, there are bands that could be considered as prog now – for example Muse – that have that prog thing but with an edge of something taken from up to date music. EBB don’t do that’.
The prog fan side of me says ‘It’s so long since I’ve seen old school prog live, that’s a bloody lovely thing’.
You can see that I’m conflicted about EBB, or rather I was. At the gig I just let my music reviewer head go away and sulk in a corner while the music fan head really enjoyed the band’s set. I just let myself be transported by great music played and sang really well. EBB are a band I want to see again.
All photos on this page © Frank Roper Photography – see many more from the gig on his Facebook Page