There is a fucking chandelier in our line of sight!
Actually there are six of them hanging over the whole
of this plush interior. There is carpet! White plaster
moulds of babies in the buff, clinging for dear life
to shields around the upper perimeter of the room! Individually
lit sunken wall spots for portrait paintings (!), replaced
in this instance by cheap chipboard and ‘no smoking’
signs. This is the industry/fan-club London re-launch
for post-post-Britpop hermits Mull Historical Society
(there was a similar affair in Glasgow two days previous)
and from the moment you haul your deep frozen feet into
the main room it just feels wrong. So they brought the
weather down with them – London has ground to a halt
under a sprinkling of snow, the unrepentant sheet-ice
forcing Crud itself to perform some desperate gymnastics
on a painful walk here – but they forgot the important
parts of the setting.
that first geocentric record – created (you imagined)
by a dreamer in a cold wooden shed, sat gazing out across
the wide yet containing Mull landscape – essentially
a Scottish Clearlake, with shinier signposts? Well,
the further you drag a subject from its natural habitat
the less it makes sense. Take a fish out of water, introduce
it to this kind of banqueting hall set and you expect
it to be skinned, keeping the glazed vegetables company,
not providing the entertainment. In all honesty they
would have been a lot better off round the corner in
Shepherd’s Bush Village Hall, audience huddled around
a rusty gas heater. Here they end up sounding like little
more than dinner music.
But it is just a setting, right? Right. And there are
the songs, a couple of old and a lot of new. And despite
being eaten up by the surroundings tonight they chime
and gleam and smile and wilt like they should, largely.
The old, ‘I Tried’ and ‘Barcode Bypass’, raise an eyebrow
of recognition and a polite foot-tap (in the circumstances
that’s the best we could manage). And the new do what
they probably should, the familiar chord progressions,
the whimsical lyrics, the expected pace, the clean delivery.
Though live was never their forte first time around.
But there are moments to remember, or put on hold for
the moment at least.
New single ‘The Final Arrears’ limps along averagely
and typically, much more memorable are the bright daydreamy
‘Am I Wrong?’, the jumpy ‘Gravity’ and the floaty ‘Asylum’.
He appears to have gone from considering sheep-love
on the first album (‘I Tried’) to waking up with an
MP (‘Minister For Genetics And Insurance MP’), so maybe
he has just moved on and we’ll have to lump it with
our back-of-beyond nostalgia. Maybe this is where he
wants to be now. Maybe he’s not been back to Mull since
he tasted the sweet filth of the mainland. But if there’s
one thing that made him stand separate from the rest,
made his fey indie that touch tastier to the palette,
it was that separation. Maybe he should go back for
a holiday before we see him next.
James Berry for Crud Magazine 2003©