5 blokes. 4 songs. Chess, murder, and William Huskisson....
The Star & Garter is a somewhat dilapidated pub in the
shadow of Piccadilly station, with naughty ladies plying for
trade on the approaching street. Appropriately for the
train-fixated ones, the open window behind the drummer gave
a great view of platform 14. Nonetheless, the sound on the
night is superb, although the stage is small and the band are
crammed onto it with no room to swing a cat. The BR jackets they
sport (with the exception of the GNER conductor) lend a paramiltary
feel to the occasion, enhanced by the use of the Inter-City logo,
which looks kind of sinister these days (AWB for trainspotters?).
They start with 'William's last breath', which neatly combines death
& railways with its reference to the late Mr. Huskisson, and also
introduces us to the grainy B/W projected footage. The music has
plenty of reference points (Arab Strap meets Catherine Wheel, with
a bit of Mogwai for good measure), but is moulded into something
very individual fronted by Dave's vocals which are the very essence
of world-weariness (sorry - forgot to mention the Tindersticks).
Following 'Before the curtains close (part II)', and
'A rook house for Bobby' (the chess-related next single) the band
reach a climax with the eight-minute epic 'Stainless Steel', which
builds to a wonderful sonic frenzy, as the band manically attack
their instruments while the guitarist saws away with a violin bow.
See them at this level while you can - you might not be able to for
long. Only 4 songs - but the best gig I've been to in ages. My faith
in live music is restored...
If anyone out there ever reads my blog then you will know that I becoming enamoured with iLiKETRAiNS. I've come to realise that they like to tell sad stories and embelish them with a magnificent sadness. This story is about Bobby Fisher (the former Chess champion). A sad story about a misfit and a genius in his narrow field who was imprisoned in Japan in 2004. Now, there are plenty of sad stories but imagine them sung by a classic voice full of resonance and backed by music of such controlled texture and intensity that even your granny would wipe a tear from her eye. I haven't heard this sort of concentrated emotion since the 70s and Lou Reeds Berlin, early Bowie, and Peter Hammill. I think the word here is "brooding" and we all need to brood sometimes. Added to their output so far, this single demonstrates that iLiKETRAiNS are already special with their own unique agenda in music.
I would love to hear an album. In fact I would love to just hear rehearsal tapes. One day (I can dream), I will be able to come home and shut a winter's night out, take the phone off the hook, and devote myself to two hours of this nerve tingling music (subject to beer supplies). This is a band who I want to have a permanent place in my life.
The first time I heard iLiKETRAiNS was on that wonderful Dance To The Radio sampler. They had the nerve to perform an eight minute track and almost carried it off - the first five minutes were enthralling and nerve jangling. This is their first single since and confirms they like long tracks because it has parts one and two of the song. It actually reminds me of early Peter Hammill (who I a will be seeing next month in a Van Der Graaf Generator revivial - my first gig for a long time so it might indicate my how much I like him). Over the top and brooding and sad and full of pathos. Built on atmospherics and a curious detatched view of personal relationships. They are the sort of band you can't really dance but just stand in awe and immerse yourself in the experience. I don't know if they are going to make a big impression on the world but I can say iLiKEiLiKETRAiNS.