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OOTB 277 – 15th November, 2007

Out of the Bedroom 277- 15th November, 2007

Last week was full of originals- here’s what happened.

OOTB 277
Nyk Stoddart, Rosie Bell, Freeloading Frank, Hannah O’Reilly, Simon Kempston & Rosie Hunter (featured), Angus Coull, Chris Mossop, David O’Hara, Steven Carey, P Gondu.

A dog is not a dog. A house is not a house. After Calum Duchamp raised the Dada bar in this missive last week, there was a feeling (Electric White Boy, and your Gonzo journalism, this means you!) that perhaps we could start a new period of Post-Surrealism, recalling the styles embraced by John Magritte in his legendary “white jaguar” reviews, which were reined in by Norman Rosenberg, who questioned where this particular art form was headed. I toyed with this idea- making the review utterly abstruse and intractable, but opted against it (although you may disagree!), because Calum accepts no imitations. At times, the review may err towards surreal, not by design, but because the music itself was, on occasion, quite far out there…

Take for example, Mr Nyk Stoddart, a man whose very name prompts
questions- “Y?” indeed. I spoke to Nyk briefly after his set, and he claims that he gives his songs names like Skeletor Man because he’s challenging the standard aesthetic: “It’s the punk in me!” he said. “But you’re blatantly a hippy,” was my response. “That’s because I’m anti-anti-establishment”. Touche. After a long conversation about the Masters of the Universe toys and a quick look at his music (Fake Jazz was a wonderful re-reading of  Hendrix’s Woodstock performance, with acerbic quips against fretboard strainers; Skeletor Man featured a bunch of his inimitible vocal athletics), we decided that Nyk was a fine exponent of Post-Mortemism; expect a song by this title to exist by the time you read this. Our compere, Rob Sproul-Cran, referred to Nyk’s performance as
“sublime”- and I suppose if you take Kant’s definition- beauty contained in a boundless object- then I’m sure everyone would concur.

Next up was Rosie Bell, who clearly engineered a slot after Nyk to assert her “mainstream” side. If  Nyk’s a punk, then Rosie is decidedly New Wave- giving us the kind of keyboard noises Gary Numan used to batter out in the early 1980s, but with far pithier lyrics. Indeed, if Rosie’s friends are electric, it might explain the “screams and shouts from the girls allowed(/loud?)”, shocked and soaked from playing their part in the City Of Alcohol. She follows it up with a cautionary tale (which I’ve only heard her read before)- Don’t Sh*g The Man On Lead Guitar. Likes a list song does Rosie, and she rattles off all the instrument-players it’s ok to get involved with (“baby wipes to the man on pipes????”), before ravaging the egos of guitarists everywhere. She finishes her three songs with her current favourite, the sparse Dead Cool, Dead Hard number, which praises loads of pre-, mid- and post- punks, giving special props to a certain Lou Reed.

Freeloadin Frank 18 December 2003

Freeloadin' Frank 18 December 2003

Rosie actually stayed up to duet with another underground legend, Freeloading Frank Titterton. I’m not sure if F n’ C was written collaboratively, but it was memorably performed so. It’s hard to tell:
“Edinburgh Fringe/ awash with c*nt and m*nge”, seemed pure Frank, but “If you get a shock/when you see a c*ck/you are simply showing off your age”- that rings Bell. Totally X-rated, and unreviewable without the aid of a shift key; marvellous. Rosie then left Frank to play (unquestionably) two of his own classics, I Wanna Be A Guru, which nicely lampoons the likes of George Harrison’s Maharishi pal (“transfer money from you to me”), and the classic Scully (“don’t believe in ghosts or satanic toast”). John Barclay mentioned a similarity between Frank and WC Fields, who used words because he liked the feel of them- true, but I think Frank quite enjoys the meanings imbued as well….

To complete a first period of true originals, Hannah O’Reilly was next to the stage. She’s back in Edinburgh for the foreseeable, and has been writing new songs to boot. Nothing I’d heard before in her set: Foolish, Faith and Dimes. Foolish- which reminded me a lot of the angsty ambience of one of her older favourites, Strange Friend- was about being a fool for someone, but not letting them break your heart, and left me wondering if this was about the city she can’t give up. Faith, written and delivered with the flu, fell into Hannah’s other camp, the laid back side; loved the wee play on words, “Faith- I’ve never been there/ Faith- the final frontier”. Hannah closed with Dimes, a song she says she loves performing because she gets to say the word “m*therf*cker” in it- what’s with all the profanity tonight??! A nice rebuff to anyone that tries to buy her affection, she doesn’t want your “business, nickels, dimes”. Not one to take busking on the streets of New York then! She’s still churning out the hits though, which is great to see.

If we’d seen bits of Surrealism, and distinct Abstract Expressionism in the course of tonight’s set, we were taken back to The Scottish Enlightenment by tonight’s featured act, Simon Kempston & Rosie Hunter. We don’t see as much of Simon round here as we used to, but there’s no doubt he’s been busy working on new material; the very introspective style (though never ‘shy’ as such) has become a lot more direct, and while it’s more Donovan-tinged folk than jazz these days, it’s still highly suited to the late-night barroom ambience. This highly structured set tackled a diverse range of subjects, from James IV’s raising of the royal fleet at Newhaven (Ladies’ Lookout), through the port of Rosyth (To See The Lights)  to the freeing of the Baltic States (a recent holiday destination) (We Formed A Barricade). The tunes are strong and distinctive- see the Bert Jansch-like Carefree Prisoner- and the lyrics are highly thought-provoking (his musing on Scotland’s sectarian struggle is detached, and
non-judgemental- “do they march in war, or do they march in peace?”, “Christian sentiment feeds this angry crowd”). Simon was backed by Rosie, a classical violin player making a foray into folk with Simon (and his band, The Statements), and her wistful counter-melodies supported the songs nicely, giving a whole new level of atmosphere to them. Highly engaging set, and nice to see the room good and busy while it was on!

Keyboard wizard Angus Coull has been along a few times recently, and I felt that tonight was the best I’d seen him. He started with Nothing Is Going My Way- which starts off in Beethoven territory and moves effortlessly into New Order, presumably picking up Kratfwerk and Joy Division on the way, in senitment and sound. This was well backed up in the second number, which was very bleak: “she was your mistress/ you always knew and so did your wife/ where is she now/ under the raging sea”- Ian Curtis would have no qualms whatsoever about performing lyrics such as these. Angus maintained the bleak, visceral lyrics in the closing number, which featured such lines as “I’m tired and I’m lonely, my life is over, it was killed by you only”, although in this case, the upbeat, jaunty nature of the tune, with nice little flourishes, belies the feeling. Deep, dark, and engaging stuff.

Poor Chris Mossop bewailed the number of times he’s been reviewed as a debutant at OOTB- I can only assume this is because his appearances are well-spaced in frequency, and there are a lot of reviewers doing the job, as this is the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen him. Chris has a deep, soulful voice, which is similar to (though not necessarily influenced by) the likes of Billy Joe Armstrong or John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, and his songs tonight would fit in quite well across the pond. It’s all very listenable, generally up-tempo stuff- even when (in the case of the first song, about the Iraq war), the subject is quite bleak. The last two numbers dealt with relationships (“I can’t believe I’ve met someone like you”, “I don’t want to be second best”), and while the subject matter may be a well-trodden path, Chris kept the attention of the audience with a nice range of movement on the guitar.

Another terrific artist whose profile suffers a bit  because he appears at the Canons Gait once every six months is Andy Northall. Andy’s got a real knack for shutting the room up with expert guitar picking, and this was brilliantly in evidence tonight with a quality instrumental squashee that put me in mind of Dick Gaughan. We need to see a longer set from Andy, and I don’t just mean three songs!

Tonight’s raffle win went to Nicole, who picked up a box of revels. Let’s hope she had fun looking for the orange one.

You know when David O’Hara means business. That’s when he turns up with nylon six-string, not saying things like “the calluses in my fingers are a bit  shallow just now”. Dave was straight to work doing a bizarre Christine Keeler impersonation with a chair before propping his foot on it in true John Williams style. Tonight’s numbers justified the special effort- he opened with Let’s See How It Goes Op.34, “The Only Joking, I Know Exactly What I’m Doing Waltz”, a bleak, brooding number, fresh out of an Eastern European romance soundtrack. Arabian Nights has become Dave’s most lauded piece, it’s his own equivalent of Tom Waits’ Tango Till They’re Sore; not a note out of place, and Big Jim added a power of atmosphere from the mixing desk. Dave ended with a Cossack-esque number- if this was in support of the Russian football team’s efforts on Saturday, though, we now know it was in vain…

Simon Kempston’s partner in Southbound Sessions, Steven Carey, was along tonight, and it was good to see a hat-trick of new songs from him. Steven’s an expert at combining fairly simple melodies with confessional lyrics and an absolutely soaring vocal, so while the songs tonight didn’t represent a huge departure from his usual fare, they couldn’t have been the work of anybody else. No idea what the titles were (I’ll take a stab at You Couldn’t Be Any Easier To Like, Great White Shark and Leave This Party), but they engaged in areas of relationships, the state of the world (“the news is twice as vulgar as p*rn”), and, inkeeping with tonight’s seedy tour of the gutter, reasons for going to a party, “to be a total *rse” and pick someone up, because “I’m not in the mood to be a gentleman”.

Finally, to take us back into unusual, Syd Barrett territory was someone we hadn’t seen in ages: P Gondu. P used to play here under the Tom Waits-inspired moniker of Eyeball Kid, and it’s always great to see someone we thought we’d lost come back to the fold. Three songs tonight, Don’t Share Your Doubt, Wait A While and a cover of the Lemonheads’ Into Your Arms (hell, it was the last song of the night, we were hardly gonna stop him!). Mr Gondu would be the first to agree his delivery is unconventional- heading down post-Psychedelic Jennifer Gentle territory, but the songs themselves aren’t so unconventional: Don’t Share Your Doubt was a Johnny Cash-style tune, with a couple of really emotive minors, and Wait A While was similarly countrified, especially in lyrics which complained of “just another broken heart”. Good to get the crowd joining in on the Dando number at the end, and nice to see the one-time Eyeball Kid still doing his stuff.

Compere: Rob Sproul-Cran
Sound: David O’Hara and James Whyte
Review: Scott Renton
Raffle: John Barclay

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