Turin Brakes / Simian
Review of their gig in the Ambassador, Dublin, October 7 2001
"It is with great trepidation that I write these words!". Seriously though, it's difficult to review any of Simian's work without some reference to H.P. Lovecraft and similar Victorian era horror scribes. Musically, they occupy the middle ground between the electronic experimentation of the Beta Band and the guitar driven psychedelia of the Super Furry Animals. However, it is a visual element that defines this band. Macabre images are beamed onto a stage backdrop - think Boris Karloff's Frankenstein, think mad scientists with their hands on huge voltmeters, think lightening, think mutant animals. All of this accentuates a rather sinister element in their music, particularly when they descend into feedback driven white noise. Songs such as "One Dimension" and "Drop & Roll" stand out. Simian play to a near empty venue yet fill the arena with sound and exude a down right creepiness. If Baz Luhrmann were to film "Jack the Ripper", he wouldn't have to look too far for soundtrack inspiration.
By the time Turin Brakes take the stage, the crowd is very patchy. In fairness it has been chucking down all day so no late rush for tickets on the night. Still, it was probably a touch ambitious to think they could fill a venue the size of the Ambassador, especially considering the abundance of acts playing Dublin at this time and the costly exercise regular gig attendance is becoming. People are being more selective and have obviously opted to pass on the Brakes.
They open with a number of the slower songs from "The Optimist L.P." the best of which are the title track and the elegant "Future Boy". First up, hats off to the Ambassador - the sound quality is top notch. Gale Paridjanian's twangy lead acoustic guitar offerings, such an integral part of Turin Brake's sound, are perfectly clear and never once lost throughout. Equally, Olly Knight's vocals surprise - they are far beefier here than the washed out and (to me) almost androgynous delivery of the album. Yet it is only when the fly headlong into their more up tempo tunes that they finally engage the crowd. There has been a constant chatter throughout more akin to Whelan's than the Ambassador. Many are here on the strength of an impressive performance atWitnness, but it would appear they were not impressed enough to go and buy the album. The ice is finally broken with their best-known song "Underdog (Save Me)" and they continue to build momentum with "State of Things" and "Slack", amongst others. The obligatory encore is finished with new single "Emergency 72".
Turin Brakes have some beautiful slower songs but they are delicate and require rapt attention to be appreciated. No matter how hard the band try, playing in a half full and rather cavernous venue such as the Ambassador does not do them justice. Given the kind of intimate awe afforded toElbow in HQ last week, I'm sure Turin Brakes can produce the live presence to match their formidable reputation. This time though, circumstances (and the weather) have conspired against them.