The Airborne Toxic EventThe Airborne Toxic Event/Misery Guts/Scuba Steve and the Life Aquatics

Carling Academy, Hotham Street
12th November 2008

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Three bands of newcomers took to the stage at the Liverpool Carling Academy. All showed flashes of talent that could lead to success, but none of them could quite bring it all together on Wednesday night to ignite the crowd.

First up were Scuba Steve and the Life Aquatics, the kind of people who would sort of name themselves after a decentish 2004 Bill Murray film. That doesn't give much of a clue as to their music though, which sounds like things that were created long, long before these irritatingly young people were born. Influences diverse as The Velvet Underground and Ray Charles vie for attention here, though unfortunately it's quite easy to discern which parts are Velvet Underground-esque and which are Ray Charles bits. However, these lads only started making music together this year, and they certainly know their way around their instruments.

Secondly, we had the kind of people who would name themselves Misery Guts. Although this suggested suicidal black metal to me, they actually delivered some well-crafted folky acoustic numbers. Again, this was one of their first gigs, but it hardly showed, as the wistful intricacies of songs like Are You Ready? and Trying To Be The Sun demonstrated their high levels of technical skill. Despite not having a drummer, they seemed to fit perfectly together, and even when vocalist David Hirst admitted that they'd played one song too fast, they hadn't seemed lost at any stage. Their music didn't get many people going, and perhaps they would be more suited to acoustic nights, but they already have a number one fan. I know this because just as I was thinking 'that guy's their number one fan', he yelled, "I'm your number one fan" at them. They may well pick up more devotees soon.

Following these two local bands, Los Angeles-based The Airborne Toxic Event (above) wrapped things up with an hour-long set. They are the kind of people who would name themselves after a chemical spill that makes people consider their mortality in postmodern author Don DeLillo's White Noise. This is entirely appropriate. Their music is often disjointed, and there are crunching gear changes that don't really fit. Sometimes they sound like an emo Franz Ferdinand, if you can imagine such a thing. But everything comes together when Anna Bulbrook steps forward with her violin, and Mikkel Jollet's impassioned vocals soar over the mixture. Jollet's lyrics were inspired by one calamitous week in 2006, and he clearly means every single word.

The Airborne Toxic Event are getting lots of publicity from the NME as they play a gig per night in November on their knackering UK tour, promoting their self-titled debut album. Where any of the bands will go from here remains to be seen.

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