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Live Review: Twin Atlantic, Straight Lines & Scholars - The Peel, Kingston 1/2/11

That they have a song called ‘Show Some Enthusiasm’ could easily be seen as something of an irony on the night but Scholars don’t seem to pay the somewhat ‘polite’ crowd much mind at all. Recent singles ‘Tornadoes’ and ‘Fractures’ are good tunes but standout tracks ‘Wreck’ and set closer ‘Turn Around’, with its mock argument finale, are superb slices of breathless, maniacally chaotic pop-rock. Go and see these guys play; they’re a delightful surprise with a sound all of their own.

Whilst they don’t quite match their predecessors reckless abandon, Wales’ Straight Lines begin their set with last single ‘Say It For Your Sake’ and their tuneful infectiousness immediately has the audience shuffling forward. Having recently been in the studio recording the follow-up to 2010’s breakout, ‘Persistence In This Game’ it is interesting to see how the two new songs that they play compare to older offerings. As it turns out they sound heavier and more technical whilst remaining true to the band’s sound. ‘Freaks Like Us’ in particular is a real bruiser punctuated by tempo changes, all the while anchored by frontman Tom Jenkins’ striking vocals. Old favourites ‘All My Friends Have Joined The Army’ and ‘Antics’ still sound reasonably fresh but if the rest of the new record matches the ambition shown by offerings on show then it should be onwards and upwards. Exciting times.

I confess then that I approach Twin Atlantic’s set as something of a cynic. They’ve made a huge noise off the back of big buzz and toured with such luminaries as The Gaslight Anthem and Angels And Airwaves, (whose stage they warmed up in Paris the night before this very show). Their only major release however, the 8 track ‘Vivrium’, is for my money, a little too patchy to warrant such impressive supporting credentials. Despite this, it still seems like a privilege to see them play in such an intimate atmosphere; if you’ll excuse me a cliché, the air is heavy with anticipation.

Opening with cracking new single ‘Edit Me’, it quickly becomes obvious that they are very slick live act. Tight as hell and oozing charm to boot, my attitude melts away. As the crowd sings back the words and front man Sam McTrusty’s face breaks into a smile of genuine surprise I find myself caught-up in the moment. Next song ‘What Is Light, Where Is Laughter?’ makes all the right moves and it is hard not to be impressed with their poise and control, McTrusty’s effortless manipulation of the willing crowd and the joy evident in what they do; the singer is in excellent voice too and hardly misses a note all night.

New tracks on show such as ‘Ghost Of Eddy’ build on the foundations laid by Vivarium while hinting at greater, and darker, depths to come, while the inclusion of a cello for majestic, swooning old favourite ‘A Guidance From Colour’ demonstrates that they can do tender pretty well too. By the time they reach the end of their ministrations and a superb rendition of ‘You’re Turning Into John Wayne’, a song I always regarded as one of the weakest on the aforementioned record, I’m not sure they’ve put a foot wrong, I’ve loved every second and so has everyone else, including the band who offer the crowd thanks that, for once, don’t feel in any way rehearsed.

Call me a cynic converted.

Words by Nick Worpole.

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