Monday, April 07, 2008

Cherry Suico

Everything about Cherry Suico is unobtrusive. She and her backing band, Crazy 88, take the stage without most people noticing. On the low stage, the diminutive singer can hardly be seen by most of the audience. And her music is so gentle, so placid, that at times you wonder if she is there at all.

That is not to say that the set is one-paced. Far from it. When the band decide to pick up the tempo, they make like a modern day Committments. The problem then is that Ms Suico's voice doesn't follow suit. You long for her to open her lungs and really go for it, but she doesn't - whether because she won't or she can't, only she can say. It seems strange to recommend that someone with a voice as good as this sees a vocal coach, but this is exactly what Cherry Suico needs. The world already has one Sade too many.

Big Hand

At a time when the Dead 60's have just split up, Madness have reduced themselves to a sullen parody of themselves and no-one seems to really care about it any more anyway, it takes a brave band to go anywhere near the mantle of ska, let alone pick it up and drape themselves in it as completely as Edinburgh's Big Hand do.

The difference is that this is a band which doesn't take themselves too seriously. This is ska, but it is the type popularised by the likes of Bad Manners. Fun ska. Trumpeter Phil Ramsey appears to be the bastard lovechild of Alex Pennie (late of The Automatic) and Gallows' Frank Carter, ripped to the tits on tartrazine. Bass player Luke Martin throws every comedy guitarist shape in the book and adds a few of his own. It's not many groups where the lead singer - in this case guitarist Tim Lomas - is the quiet man of the band.

To some extent, this is the only flaw with tonight's performance. Lomas' vocals are too thin and reedy for the energy of the music. Everything fits much better when, as on songs like 'Light a Fire', drummer Paul Skelding takes over vocal duties. And the last successful band with a singing drummer

The important thing tonight, though, is not that the stage is too small, that the ceiling is too low or that the singer is having a bit of an off night. It is that the set is too short. Just five numbers and they are off. You should, of course, always leave your audience wanting more

Seamus McLoughlin

Ask yourself this question: "Does the world need another James Blunt?"
Alternatively, ask yourself this other question: "Does the world need another David Gray?"
If the answer to either of these questions is 'yes', then Seamus McLoughlin has it made. The songs are pleasant and undemanding. Lyrically, he's far and away the most accomplished performer tonight, whilst the music the perfect synthesis of the former's acoustic strumming and the latter's slightly rockier pretensions. There's even a tinge of David Byrne in there, for those who prefer their music a little more leftfield.

The problem is that it all becomes a little predictable after a time. A song called 'Out of the Water' takes such a familiar course that I find myself predicting what is going to happen well in advance of the actual chord changes. Which is, to be honest, annoying.

That said, there's a place for people who just want to write tuneful, undemanding songs. I find Blunt tedious and pointless and Gray just intensely irritating. McLoughlin is neither of these and if his only aspiration is to be a radio friendly unit shifter then good luck to him.

Andy J Gallagher

This is tricky. There's something very likeable about Andy J Gallagher, but yet something very ephemeral, too. He has songs which bounce along in that slightly punky, don't-really-care-if-you-like-this-or-not, way beloved of the likes of the Holloways and Bromhead's Jacket. The problem is that, try as they might, they just won't stick in your head. Which is a problem in a venue as small as The Fly, where there is very little room for a band do to more than stand and play, and even less room for the audience to do more than sway slightly on the spot.
Deprived of the chance to give the songs the power they deserve, Gallagher ends up falling between two stools. He's not giving us anything we've not seen or heard before, but he's no chance to prove what he could be doing differently.