It has been a good start for The Strange Death of Liberal England. Thanks to some grassroots support winning them the online music community Drowned in Sound's readers' choice for 2006, Steve Lamacq saw the band play London's tiny Dublin Castle last year, and has played them on Radio 1 and featured them on his BBC 6 Music show. As of last month, they are signed to Fantastic Plastic Records.
Tonight they play the shoegazing establishment's sonic cathedral. Howling vocals from all five members, led by Adam Woolway, his unruly mop of hair resembling a young Robert Plant, intensify the mood as they build up guitar and glockenspiel, all moving jerkily at different angles. This is "Motor in the Sky, Oil in the City" and bassist Andrew Wright moves robotically, immersed in the noise as guitarist Andrew Summerly thrashes. As the noise subsides, drummer Will Charlton stands and they chant in unison. It's a fierce start and the crowd is still, in submission.
Intensifying the eerieness they are silent in between songs, holding up placards to represent each track. Bearing statements such as "Repent! Repent!", each placard would not look out of place at a protest march or demonstration.
Named after the 1935 book by George Dangerfield, and with dramatic billboards in place of words, dare I say it: The Strange Death Of Liberal England err on the side of pretentiousness. Throughout the set the musicians swap instruments with each other. But it does little to enhance the set.
Still, they display more than shades of Arcade Fire, especially in "Mozart on 33" and "This is Just a Modern Folk Song". The gentle strumming of melodic riffs, mixed with yelping vocals and glockenspiel, are preludes to the dynamic eruption of noise that characterises much of their music.
The Portsmouth quintet were brought together by a shared love of groups on the Montreal Constellation label, the hub of the instrumental post-rock scene, home to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and other exhaustingly named bands including A Silver Mount Zion and Do Make Say Think.
Like their post-rock heroes, The Strange Death of Liberal England make leftist political statements.Their pessimistic themes of war and death seem to intensify as the set progresses, perhaps symbolising the downward spiral and destructiveness of war.
The acoustic "A Good Old-Fashioned War", followed by the sinister "Six Feet Down" in which the up-til-now-unaffected Kelly Jones switches to drums, is sonically drowned out by the dramatic finale "I Saw Evil".
This last offering reaches a Mogwai-esque climax against the backdrop of a military beat as Charlton pounds the snare. Shouting and beating snare drums in marching band formation, The Strange Death of Liberal England chuck the drum sticks in the air, discard the drums carelessly on the floor, and they're off.Reuse content