This has been, and will continue to be, a very busy week. This was the third gig in as many days – a disappointing Ho99o9 show on Sunday night, that was so unengaging I left twenty minutes into their set, and then a much better Author & Punisher/Trepaneringsritualen show on Monday that left my teeth ringing were the other two – with yet more to come later in the week, with APE presents Nick Cave on Sunday and back at The Finsbury for LOCK on Monday. As Jon Bon Jovi put it, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.
Click Click: 003: LOCKS: 30-May 2018
The Finsbury, N4
I’m actually lucky where I live in North London that we’ve got access to a great number of pubs, and a surprising number that put on live music – but The Finsbury is rapidly becoming one of my preferred local venues, partly because the back room where gigs are put on manages a few impressive feats, that really shouldn’t be. The stage is of a good height (so everyone can see), it isn’t cramped, and most importantly, it actually has decent sound.
Which for the bands on last night, were definitely important. Although that said, Hot Teeth didn’t half stand out a bit on this bill. Percussion-heavy blues-rock, really, they were clearly very skilled musicians and were great at whipping up an enthusiastic reaction from the crowd (often difficult to do as the first band on), but they didn’t really do much for me song-wise – this kind of thing isn’t really my bag.
I initially thought that Lonely Tourist wasn’t going to do much for me, either – a Scottish singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar, but then it suddenly dawned on me exactly who he was, and how much I’d enjoyed Frank the Barber when it was played for weeks on Steve Lamacq’s 6Music show earlier in the year. That song – about “a job he’s never had”, comes from his latest album Renumeration, a concept album about employment. No, wait, come back!
What this actually meant was a number of funny, witty and poignant songs about the day-to-day drudgery of the working life, and while Frank the Barber is catchy and entertaining, it was easily eclipsed by the extraordinary Stunt Double, which in three short minutes got in hilarious tales of adventure, despair and even a few political digs and had much of the crowd hooting with laughter at the brilliantly clever humour. Then there was the poignant – and apparently real-life – Ballad of Paul Tierney, about a journeyman lower-league footballer who never made the big time. Sadly, not all dreams come true.
This was pretty much Lonely Tourist in a microcosm. Amid the catchy songs and humour, there is a frailty beneath that suggests a darker, sadder side, but a reflection of real life in song – there are good and bad times, and sometimes it is necessary to deal with both (and see the funny side later on). We bought two of his albums on the spot, and I’ll no doubt be digging out the other in due course.
The main event, though, was LOCKS, celebrating the release of their well-received – and very good – debut album Skeletal Blues, and happily here – as there had been all evening – there was a large and vocal crowd ready to enjoy the show.
It’s remarkable to think that I first stumbled across LOCKS just a year ago, on a sweltering night in Islington (previously covered on Into the Pit: 197), and in that time I’ve seen them progress quickly to being regularly playlisted on 6Music – by far now the best station to discover interesting new music in the UK (even if it’s remit doesn’t include most of the music that I usually write about).
Their description on their social media sites is still the one that piqued our interest in the first place – “Murder songs & death shanties” – and it remains the best way of describing the band. Their sound is somewhere in between folk songs and dark, dark balladry, with a few familiar names cropping up when people try and compare them, but what the album and this show in particular proved was that LOCKS are doing a fine job of carving their own niche.
In The City
Devil And Me
White Tape (Angel Maker)
The Gin Song
The set was structured so that they played the entire album in order, then a handful of older songs (very much all of the latter being long-time crowd favourites) to close out, and while I’ve had some time to get familiar with the album, some of them worked even better live. Two in particular stood out to me. The slinky, mysterious groove of Devil and Me (whose bassline, yes, resembles the Pink Panther theme at least in part) was a fabulous highlight, while the dark family failings and furious, accusatory tone of White Tape (Angel Maker) has never sounded as scorching as this live before.
Of the other new songs, In The City is easily the best of the bunch, a fast-paced warning of danger in unfamiliar places, but as my wife pointed out as we watched the show, many LOCKS songs are about “monsters” in one way or another – or to put another way, the demons of life, of temptation, of death. The threats to ourselves that we fight every day, they have just added a fantastical edge to many of them to wonderful effect. Like the temptress in Skin, as it happens…
The hugely appreciative crowd – with a clear number of fans who knew all the songs (including a certain Mr Lamacq, too) – meant that there was no way the band were being allowed to leave without a few more songs, too, and the closing trio were clearly all big favourites. The sprawling tale of deceit and death that is The Family remains possibly the band’s most dramatic song, while closer Wishbone remains my personal favourite (and the song that ensnared me in the first place). Sandwiched between these two was The Gin Song, possibly the only song they’ve done where the demons are not human, where retreat into drink and apparently catholic guilt lead to a fiery cocktail – and a gloriously bleak song.
That said, despite the darkness of the band’s themes, there was time for smiles and humour, for example as the band took to the stage, they did so to the intro music from the children’s show Funnybones (one my wife recognised instantly – it rings a vague bell to me at best), and there were regular interactions with the crowd too.
This felt like a watershed for the band. By far the biggest crowd I’ve seen them draw, and by far the best show they’ve done, too, with a number of people who’d clearly not seen them live before (and rather obviously converted to the cause by the end of it). Only a matter of time before a much wider audience awaits, that’s for sure.
Skeletal Blues is out now.