Lately I’ve been trying to find the positive in things. Sometimes good things come through effort, other times through luck.
I had bought tickets to a couple of gigs over the past year but ended up selling them on due to either difficulties with the logistics of getting there or a reluctance to be in large crowds. I’ve not even really listened to much music lately, I’ve been struggling to find anything to really get into. Also music = emotion and I’ve had quite enough of those without inducing any more. Music = opening myself up and I’ve been doing the opposite for a while. Saying that, I have BBC 6Music on in the car and on longer journeys I’ve been giving my kids a musical education with playlists from the 60s, 70s, 80s and a Beatles only special, cos, The Beatles. They like the 60s best so far, although I’m excited to make the 90s playlist next despite them objecting when I sing along. I’m lucky that they both have an interest in music and that I can share this with them. Anyway, when We Are Scientists announce a new album and tour, then you know I’m going to be there no matter what.
I think, I’m pretty sure that this was We Are Scientists gig number 20 for me. I tried to count them all (I’ve written about most on this blog but not all) and I reckon I’m at 20. I’m lucky to have seen them that many times, even luckier to have done so in about 8 towns and cities across 3 countries.
Their album, “Lobes“, came out last month. Initially I popped it on in the car and didn’t really think much of what I heard. Bit too much disco-pop all at once. Then I realised that I wasn’t properly paying attention (due to the driving) and that I had put it on shuffle by accident. I started it again, in order from the start and paid attention (also to the road, I got there safely). Unexpectedly, I got a bit tearful. Those guys. I suddenly remembered all the good music, good gigs, good people that I’ve met through this band and the good times we’ve had. I’m lucky to have that in my life.
The album is great. It’s probably the only We Are Scientists album where comparisons to other bands have sprung to mind (all good ones). It is another highly produced album, which I’m not usually a fan of. I don’t like when bells and whistles get in the way of the essence of good melody, rhythm, hooks and lyrics. Fortunately in this case the not-quite-literal-but-almost bells and whistles only enhance and complement those core elements which are as strong as ever. It’s a more consistent album than previous ones, no big surprises like Headlights, KIT, or Bought Myself a Grave. Parachute maybe comes closest but anyone familiar with the band’s acoustic work won’t find it straying too far from their wheelhouse. Actually perhaps Turn it Up is the outlier of the group. Perhaps I’m also changing my mind about this album’s consistency, there are indeed a couple of nice surprises in there… I’m lucky that my favourite band keep making music that I genuinely enjoy and keep finding new depths in.
So to gig night. I haven’t been to a gig since…well the last gig was also We Are Scientists, unless you count the Strictly Live Tour… I made the necessary arrangements for the kids and puppy and ventured into the West End to Oran Mor. I got there in the middle of the support set, a band called Bleach Lab. They were good. More confident and polished than some support bands I’ve seen. They had a solid, atmospheric sound and the singer had a great voice.
My usual gig compadres couldn’t make it so I was considering just losing myself inconspicuously in the middle of the crowd, but then the inevitable Tall Ones appeared all around, so I slinked forward, eyeing up a free space on the barrier, hoping that it wasn’t reserved for someone at the bar/loo when I luckily found people I had met at previous gigs. I secured my favoured spot and wasn’t a lonely loser.
The guys set up their own equipment, so we saw them busy about the stage then go off for a quick costume change and pause for dramatic effect. I kinda miss the days of coordinated outfits or matching smart suits but they all looked great, despite both Keith and Chris wearing dad jeans. Carne was channelling 1970s George Harrison (the hottest Beatle, obvs). They kicked off with Lucky Just To Be Here which is a bold move considering it features Keith singing with minimal accompaniment for a long stretch but it’s a great song that builds in energy and vitality. It’s my favourite song on the new record. Most days. I have trouble picking absolute favourites. Keith’s vocals are powerful and captivating enough that he could easily hold the attention of the crowd that was still warming up. By the end of the number we were thoroughly warmed and ready for more.
We got a generous helping of Lobes, the catchiest tunes from Huffy and a nice mix of older stuff. Kudos to the person who requested Return the Favor, that was an unexpected bonus inclusion in the setlist. I was not at all sorry that It’s a Hit has been ditched to make room for newer/better songs. The additional sounds of the new record sounded more funky than disco-ey live, with most of the elements being added by Carne’s Amazing Magical Effects Gizmo, that he masterfully played in addition to the usual percussion. Despite having a gazillion things to hit all at once, he still amazingly looks like he’s just having a chilled fun bash about, always under control, energetic but never frenetic. I do love that amongst all the trigger pads, loops and effects, a single orange maraca was wielded to the greatest effect. Keith had busy time of it too. With each album comes a signature guitar sound, by now after album number eight, his pedal board must have expanded exponentially and he was as frantic with his feet as he was with his fingers, and the small matter of lead vocals as well, obviously. Chris was as cool as ever. The basslines on Lobes are particularly outstanding and Chris delivered them with aplomb. We are lucky that the band love Glasgow and keep coming back here.
Afterwards I joined the merch queue to see what was on offer, unfortunately the guys themselves weren’t manning it so it was left to a poor fella who had to contend with piles of shirts overflowing on a too-small table, trip-hazard boxes all around his feet and a payment system that seemed to require manual typed entries each time, making for very slow progress indeed. He persevered bravely and eventually got through the long line of people. I picked up a deck of the tarot cards cos they have cool artwork and I really don’t need any more WAS t-shirts. Many thanks to the Oran Mor staff who luckily helped me out the locked door after they let me stay and chat after chucking out time.
It’s been tough times for us all over the past few years. We all need a little bit of luck now and again to help us on our way. All of us who secured tickets to this gig had some luck. We saw a great band have a great time playing some great songs. We were all lucky just to be there.