My Latest Novel
After missing one of My Latest Novel gigs happening literally within walking distance from my house, due to a simultaneous concert of the Akron/Family happening at the faraway London ICA, I got to the conclusion that for the sake of my quality sleep and bank balance it was time to organize better my agenda and cut the journey to London down to essential.
The sacrifice lasted less than a week. Point is that the option to miss My Latest Novel’s Death & Entrance album launch party at the glamorous Bush Hall promoted by the friends of The Line of Best Fit would be in a simple word: immoral.
Bella Union, My Latest Novel label, seems to be doing things in the Indie world as they should be done.
Capitalizing on Fleet Foxes platin success, the guys at the label are spotting and signing the best realities of contemporary music and promoting them with beautiful events that deserve, as this night was, to be picked by Time Out as “critic’s choice”.
Before My Latest Novel took the stage, three more bands pleased the audience (at the cost of a takeaway curry, must be underlined).
I usually focus each review on Live on 35mm on a single artist but I want to give to It Hugs Back’s dreamy-noise-pop a short praise. These four guys played a striking set with the songs infiltrated with “shoegaze intermezzos” kindly offered by the 2 square meters of Matthew’s (something) guitar effects. I promised myself to double check their future gigs since on stage they sounded much wilder and juicer than I would expect listening to their latest album.
My Latest Novel rich line-up, five boys and one girl, is characterized not only by the violin, an instrument nowadays more frequent in rock bands than the bass, but by the presence of two guitars that often become three when the beardy singer (photos below, sorry I can’t find any hint to assign names with faces) catches is black guitar to derail the band’s sound beyond the trail of their sophisticate songwriting.
These are among the most interesting bits of a superb gig. With the violinist that goes “Miles Davis” way, turns her back to the audience to follow the drumming and join the bands in the instrumental passages that decorate some of the most adventurous songs.
If I had to play the game british music press loves, My Latest Novel would meet at the crossroads of Arcade Fire’s folk-rock and The National erudite songwriting.
What I don’t like of this game is that, if useful to help people unaware of the music to classify bands into a genre (another all-British mania) and drive shopping, it also devaluates the band reviewed.
If there is one thing My Latest Novel don’t deserve is any sort of devaluation.
So if it is right that the new album title they played live tonight, Death & Entrance, is inspired by Dylan Thomas, it must also be said it is a band’s choice to choose it. As well as it is undeniable that the bass voice of one of the singer (this other guy here below!) may remind you of Matt Berninger voice but, beyond the Scottish accent, he is not him and on top of that most of the members of this band sing giving to the songs a variety of different tones.
The same way, it is true that MLN harmonies gets often quite complex jamming together violin guitar and drums on uneven improvisations, yet it is still not enough to apply for Canadian citizenship.
Fact is that with an album so full of ideas, with lyrics, harmonies and melodies so sharply crafted into each song, to give credits to someone else is unfair.
This is a pure My Latest Novel album, a CD which is perfectly inserted in the British music of our times and contains songs that will be able to go well beyond our times.
I can’t even decide tonight which songs I like most. If on the singing side I prefer the bass voice going along acoustic guitar as for the album opening All in All in All is All or Lacklustre it would be criminal to not give credits to the perfection of a sumptuous piece as A Dear Green Place or even to the short apocalyptic instrumental of Man Against the Argument.
Without a setlist it is difficult to me to name the songs played. I am attracted enough by a couple of tracks played at the grand piano by the beardy guy (with no name) to buy him the CD after the gig. The rest of the band kept playing on stage.
Retrospectively I would say one was Re-Appopriation of the Meme, but whatewer the song was they donated the audience a moment of rare intensity.
If Wolves was one of the best debut of recent years, with Death & Entrance My Latest Novel moved a step further.
Personally I think that getting rid of some of those choruses, I am thinking of Learning Lego, The Job Mr Kurtz Done, Sister Sneaker Sister Soul, if could let the audience without sing-along gave the song a maturity that is rare at this stage of a band career.
This gives raise to another of my considerations. A suggestions to all the bands (and labels) out there that taking a lot of time to tour the debut and even more to write and record the key second album can be economically hard to cope with, but in the end pays back.
The night closes with the band announcing that will not go away to comeback for a prearranged encore but will keep playing the songs altogether.
I love when this happens. It may be because from my position I can often read the setlists before the gig, but I am bored by the unemotional ritual of simulating the end of a gig, saying hello to the audience, then simulate a comeback by popular acclamation (which often doesn’t even happens) to play two songs that were written on that list before the start.
I am convinced enough to buy the CD and leave the Bush Hall to rush towards the tube under one of the rare rainfall of this warm spring, perfect setting after a Scottish act. Once in the train I am happy to unwrap the CD, read the lyrics and… to realize for the very first time what pleasure we are missing shifting from our bulky old fashioned portable CD players to tiny cool mp3 players.
The Bush Hall isn’t what you’d define a central venue in London, but it is, for sure, one of the more suggestive.
Originally a large dance hall, if seen through the perspective of rock theatres, it is small and cosy.
Red velvet curtains, chandeliers, red carpets create the atmosphere.
No barriers (and no photographer’s pit) let people as close as possible to the artist.
It is not the best place to see a sold-out gig. With a low stage a flat floor and being quite long if you stand on the back you are limited to listening unless you are a NBA player. I experienced this many years ago for a special Alanis Morissette show in here.
Tonight with a grand piano in front of the stage, round tables decorating the room allowing guests to taste a beer enjoying the gig sitting comfortably, is wonderful.
Lighting is not the best a photographer could dream of tonight. There are fixed colour spots both sides of the stage and overall it is quite dark but bouncing a flash on the ceiling or the walls (both white) could be a potential option. I avoided to respect the bands and because I rarely like my flash photos and tend to cut it to a minimum.
The absence of the pit and the small stage have the advantage that is possible (as a photographer) to go side of the stage to take some shots from an unusual angle. Useful especially with My Latest Novel that, fully immersed into the music, tend to turn often away from the crowd.
In brief a highly suggested place for intimate live music in London, as long as it doesn’t get too congested or too energetic.