Thursday, August 27, 2015

Young Marble Giants at The Royal Festival Hall

There was no onstage twinkling Apple shining out of a brushed aluminium rectangle.
Phew, what a relief!
Three silent men took up their places to a cheer and played an instrumental that sounded remarkably spooky for such a friendly trio; then a huge cheer greeted Alison Statton as she walked over to her microphone to sing Radio Silents. The nerds of yesteryear, myself included in their number, had an evening to themselves in the dark with one of their fave bands, and we were damn well gonna enjoy it.
There is something home-made about the Young Marble Giants; they are the Bake-Off cake that doesn't quite get top marks, but that you know is going to be the most delicious one even though it topples over to one side and the icing has dribbled a bit. And seen from this distance in time, the humour shines through like a beacon. They don't show off but they are still mesmerising, and Alison Statton's vocals are just perfect. She is confident as a singer and too gutsy to sound ethereal, although I have heard her singing described as that. But she has a strong voice; it's just a very northern European voice, clear and full of  a fresh resonance.
And of course the little bippity boppity drum track is a star in its own right.
Choci Loni has the rhythm of Peter Sellers' and Sophia Loren's novelty single Goodness Gracious Me. It does! And that's 'See you next week' from the Double Deckers at the end of Colossal Youth. And the pips from Radio Four referenced, just in case you noticed.
The songs are short and where some people put cleverness, they leave space. This is why I like them so much; they don't bother with unnecessary fuss, which isn't to say the songs don't sound busy in places, but there is silence too where it is needed.
The chap playing a snare and bass drum has trouble sometimes; I think he has perfect metre and the brothers have their own rhythm which chops and pecks like a chicken but they are perfectly in time with each other. Walking home from the tube tonight I played it over in my head, and their metronome would be the way a car ignition turns over, repeatedly. Everything starts, starts, starts, until it stops. And often the ends of their songs sound like the beginnings of completely new ones. I think that is really clever.
 That's the other thing: you can hear how they made these songs up, which doesn't mean that you could have made them up yourself, but just that you can hear the way they are put together and I find that really appealing.
Back in the day when the policemen were so much older, those Fender guitars seemed huge. I think it was the brothers' skinny arms, and of course none of our arms are skinny any more. But the group are remarkably well-preserved and they still look like a proper group.
More than once, shivers went down my spine and once I cried: at the line 'You're haunting me because I let you', because someone very dear to me has had their heart broken and I can't bear it; we let people haunt us because that way we keep them. There is a lot of wisdom in these lyrics.
I wrote lots of notes on a bit of paper in the dark and of course I wrote over them.
I meant to say Ivor Cutler, and I meant to say soul music. But I didn't.


A Fan said...

I ask you, how is the average fan gonna' get over to North Carolina. Are you running a bus/train service from The Spiers! (Gig Listing)

Wilky of St Albans said...

Oh Darn it! I knew there was one thing I meant to see at the RFH this year (the Barbican seems a better bet these days) and this was it. And me a SBC member to boot.