So, there’s only 12 people actually watching him but Adam Gnade really doesn’t seem fazed by it. He just dishes out his lo-fi Moldy Peaches folk, picking away at his 4-string guitar and throwing in a Johnny Cash ‘When The Man Comes Around’ interlude hand-in-hand with his mid-west Americana musings. It’s a much more attractive proposition being offered out (jokingly?) by him than it is braving the cold on a miserable Remembrance Day. His story-telling style and the bare arrangement of all his songs recall early White Stripes before Jack White realised his wildest guitar fantasies and hung up his acoustic. With his stripped-down indie cool and endearing stage presence you just feel that the director of ‘Juno 2’ could well be knocking his door in the future…
The 12 people multiply quickly as Youthmovies enter the fray to an albeit muted response not helped by a 10 minute sound-check before their eventual materialisation. Now, lets get one thing straight from the start, comparisons with their ‘Oxford-beat’ counterparts Foals will be and are, quite simply, inevitable. The fact that singer Andrew Mears was a founding member doesn’t help. Similar sound, tempo, intricacies, ADD stage antics, yeh yeh whatever. Looking at bands such as YM in such a skin-deep fashion is frankly, pointless. To do so would mean ignoring the energetic, ambient soundscapes they forge, that not only provide vitality live, but reward lengthy listens of their debut ‘Good Nature’.
At times they embark on melodic odysseys reminiscent of prog masters Explosions In The Sky, with brassy interludes provided courtesy of their very own trumpeter Sam Scott. They jump from that to the agitations of Test Icicles, fidgeting around the stage whilst drummer Graeme Murray dictates the pace, in a heartbeat switching between four-to-the-floor beats and excitable, inventive skin-manship that transcends all ordinary tempo. Their slow-building intros belie the madness that ensues, a heaviness that easily sets them apart from the middle-of-the-road, pedestrian live acts that litter the indie scene up and down the country.
They can be a frustrating band however, due to the fact that at times there’s simply be too much going on, leaving you praying for a more regimented approach. In contrast, at other times their disjointed sonic exploration marries together perfectly and you just get them. They even bring Gnade back onstage for a duet to relive moments from ‘Honey Slides’, their ep together, blasting out My Bloody Valentine-dripping feedback with a strange poetry that borrows as much from ‘Digital Ash…’ era Bright Eyes as it does from Ginsberg and Kerouac. It may seem a bit of a reach but it does work.
As a live prospect you come to appreciate just how many stops YM make in contemporary musical history. Their heavier moments are reminiscent of Blood Brothers. Their sheer ‘3-songs-in-one’ audacity taps into the musical heritage of their hometown, echoing Radiohead. Their intriguing irregularity owes as much to early Biffy Clyro as it does anything else. The simple fact is that although YM are far from the finished article, if they continue to pioneer their own unique and exciting amalgamation of sounds, they won’t owe anything to anyone.
Review – Liam Flowers
Photos – Keith West