Monday, 4 February 2013

870 THE SHUDDERS, Alex Taylor, The Right Hooks, Swindon The Victoria, Friday 1 February 2013

Another one at the Vic, this, and it’s a welcome return to gigging for Tim’s band The Shudders! Apart from heralding a return to treading the boards for Swindon’s finest pirate folk/ Americana/ dusty understated Country dabblers (OK, I know, I’m biased here…) this gig serves a further double purpose; firstly a chance to really start to bed in new drummer Jim in a proper “live band” setting, as opposed to the acoustic outings thus far (such as gig 857 at The Running Horse last October); and secondly a celebration of Tracey’s birthday!

We set off up the hill after Rachel's mum had arrived to babysit, hitting Longs Bar (yikes!) about 8 and meeting up with Tim, Tracey the birthday girl and her entourage for a drink. Ventured into the more sensible confines of The Vic afterwards, popping down to see the (already late running, uh oh…) Right Hooks, an acoustic 3-piece playing folksy numbers to a sparse crowd of mates. Some good humour and in-between song banter partly made up for the fact I found their numbers… well, just dull really, I’m afraid. Main support Alex Taylor seemed more promising initially; a personable trilby-hatted young chap, his first stripped back number was haunting and evocative and recalled Hobotalk, but the next song was smothered in unnecessary pedal effects and delivered in a harsher, more off-scale, almost scat vocal style, and seemed convoluted in comparison. Unimpressed, we decanted to the bar, there meeting up with a visiting Rich Craven for an entertaining chat.

Back down for The Shudders set, chatting with an, erm, well refreshed vocalist Danny at the bar before he was called to duty with the band about 10.30. Initially things went well, with a set drawing on an all new set of numbers, the basis of the next album they’re planning to start recording shortly (in Sweden, no less!), showing considerable progression, maturity and diversity from their debut album batch of songs. Melancholy opener “Sunrise” was followed up with a Men They Couldn’t Hang-like “Truce Song” (evoking The Men’s “Green Fields Of France” in the verses, yet featuring some striking, toughened-up riffery in the chorus lines), then an excellent and more upbeat “New Design”, which pleased Rach, as there’d been too much slow stuff this evening up to then!

“Epic” hadn’t yet been a word suitable to describe The Shudders, but a couple of their numbers (the ambitious, widescreen sea shanty lament of “Mary’s Grace”, and the slower, Sparklehorse-like “Sunflower Blues”) now show some serious attempts to broaden their scope and range, and the new drummer, finally behind a kit with this lot, was impressive from the outset, giving extra hard-edged dynamism and drama to their sound, with lots more sudden outbreaks of thrashy and thrilling noise than before. Some good harmonies as well, particularly on the Gigolo Aunts-like “Yesterday” which (a little predictably, I know…) was my set highlight, and may well become my favourite Shudders song.

Towards the end, however, things got a little ragged and all over the place; the odd bum note or two, understandable given their lack of “live” practice, became more prevalent, and the beer ended up getting the better of them during the final double of “Sorry” (which featured a verse refrain similar to Bowling For Soup’s “Punk Rock 101”) and a raucous closer “Angels” (which featured a verse refrain similar to the theme from “Grease”!). The very tall vocalist Danny in particular was swaying like a big ol’ tree towards the end, just needing one well placed chop to completely fell him.

We dashed off promptly at the end, given the lateness of the hour, nevertheless looking at the positives of this Shudders showing. Seeing past the lack of practice and a surplus of alcoholic beverages this evening, the new material is a quantum step forward, and Jim is an excellent drummer who seems to have fitted in seamlessly. So things are definitely on the up for The Shudders!

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