ATL: Cutaways & Boathouse live review

October 9, 2008

The second ATL review I’ve done to date, and a quote from it has sat on Cutaways’ MySpace page ever since. 🙂 It’s on the ATL site here.



What with the relentless rain and approximately 57 other credible gig alternatives in Belfast tonight, Cutaways could have chosen better when they booked their EP launch. But somehow, defying all expectations, the magnificent (and underused as a gig venue) Empire is respectably full from early in the night, damp bodies standing to attention for each of the four bands.

After two promising newcomers in Yes Cadets and Strait Laces, Boathouse come on and go straight for the throat. They will never be the coolest of bands, but music this honest and heartfelt rarely is. They invest every inch of their souls into these heart-bursting anthems, frontman Gerry McCrudden in particular giving of himself entirely in trying to communicate with his audience. The contrast between his timid between-song chat and the pure power of his soaring voice is marked. However, although you get the sense that they are at times aiming for Arcade Fire levels of transcendence, they never quite get there. Muddy sound doesn’t help and a few of the songs are a touch below par, but there is an enjoyable band here. On another night, they could be great.

In complete contrast to the passionate Big Music of Boathouse, headliners Cutaways deal in bright colours, fast tempos and hooks aplenty. From Paul McIvor’s quite ridiculous attire and Grace McMacken’s fluorescent keyboard stand to the huge cardboard chicks adorning the stage, you know instantly what to expect. And it is striking how different the band looks and sounds compared to a couple of years ago. Then a four piece with a bassist, the band dealt in fizzing, guitar-driven power pop. Now, shorn of bass player Chris McCorry and previous keyboardist Angie McCrisken, the yelped, boy/girl voices and Ryan Simpson’s kinetic drumming come to the fore. Paul and Grace’s vocal interplay recalls Los Campesinos! in its excitable call-and-response, while the buzzing synth basslines lock into the drums to create a herky-jerky danceability.

Boathouse’s dodgy sound is carried into Cutaways’ opening song, and fears rise that the gig will be ruined, but the problems are sorted out and the band quickly hit their stride. All four EP songs are aired, ‘I Spilled Your Drink So You Broke My Heart’ being an early highlight, but the two key songs end up being the unrivalled highlights of the night, from any of the bands. Other acts would sell their grannies for either the riff or the chorus of the delirious ‘Weapon Of Choice’, while ‘Lovers Are Lunatics’ – played second-last – is given the treatment it deserves, as a pair of nifty hand puppets shake and jig from behind the props. On first listen, the song can sound disjointed, but live the momentum is there as Paul, Grace and Ryan drive you through the myriad hooks until you reach that soon-to-be-iconic chorus. The song is good enough to define the band (previous incumbent ‘Sixteen’ having been dropped from the set) and should have been the closer. The song that follows means the set ends as it started, by underwhelming. But it doesn’t detract from a joyous, riotously fun performance by a band that has embraced pop music and is determined to twist it into exciting new shapes.


One comment

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