Glass – The Duchess, 04/02/11

With Lynn on a girlie night out, it’s just the three of us attending the Duchess for the second week running, this time to see a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar bands.

First, one of the new ones. The Bitter Image are a four-piece rock band from York. They came across as a bit grungy, a lot heavy, very loud but still melodic. Powerful drumming provided the backbone to songs which also included some very nice guitar pieces and some surprisingly clear vocals (for a rock band at the Duchess). I didn’t catch many song titles, but did note down that the fourth song of the set was a lot slower than the rest, almost ballad-like, with more metallic sounding guitars and that the sixth was a new song. The one title I did get, Forget Me Not, turned out to be, along with the previously mentioned slower number, the best of what was a pretty good set. A band to look out for.

I last saw Dorien Starre back in 2008. Since then, they have won Hive Live (a competition for local bands) in March 2010 and blown Roj’s socks off in November of the same year. Their extended indie rock songs are, quite frankly, superb. Fast paced, with great music and vocals which still remind me a little of The Divine Comedy. Last time out I singled out drummer Andrew Ackroyd for special mention. I still think he is one of the best local drummers around at the moment, but there is no singling out this time as the rest of the band are equally as good. Don’t let the brevity and lack of detail regarding their set fool you – I was simply so enthralled by the music that I forgot to make any notes. Dorien Starre are highly recommended. I just wish I’d picked up a copy of their EP on the night. (Previous comments about EPs notwithstanding…)

It’s not that I had deliberately avoided Glass, tonight’s headliners, but the description of the band from front man Alexander King’s YorkMusicForum signature (“Dark, gripping, post-punk influenced rock”) somehow put me off, despite not actually knowing what it meant. I suspect it was the word “punk” in there that did it – I’ve never been a fan of that particular genre. So, when tonight’s gig was put forward as an option, I asked a friend what sort of music they actually played. “A bit Gothic,” was the somewhat vague response. So, it was a bit of a surprise to see the stage festooned with fairy lights and King himself decked out in vest and trilby, in a very un-Goth way. Next surprise was the lack of instruments on stage – we could hear keyboards, but we couldn’t see any… Shock, horror! A backing track was in use. More to the point, the music was a bit light and airy, at least at the beginning of the set. It got a bit more edgy and heavier as the set went on, but I would struggle to describe it as dark. (Although, in hindsight, I suppose that could be a relative term.) Overall, it was a slick and, for me anyway, enjoyable performance which seemed to mix New Wave and generic rock in a pretty successful way. I even managed to put the backing track to the back of my mind after a while – to begin with you can’t help but wonder how much of what you are hearing is part of the track and how much is being played live but it seemed obvious later on that the band is comprised of some very talented musicians (including another superb drummer in Dan Whiting). Unfortunately, as the backing track seemed to be one long recording, rather than something that was started at the beginning of each song, there was little room left for introducing the songs or other interaction with the crowd. From what I can remember a quick “This is the new single” was all we got. It impressed me enough to buy the band’s debut album, The Sound Of Glass, which I’ve only had the chance to listen through once so far but which does come across as bit darker than tonight’s performance. The concept of the music being transmitted through time from Victorian times via a steam-driven machine, conveyed by text in the CD “case” and by the band’s wonderfully intriguing web-site is original and adds a different dimension to the band as a whole.

I have since found out, via the same friend, that Glass have in the past performed with a keyboard player (Andy Curry is credited on the album) and that King has talked about a change in direction for the band, perhaps more in the use of electronics. On the basis of tonight’s performance and the brief listen to the album I have learned one thing – not to judge a band by a few words of description or an attempt to label it.


About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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