Misery GutsMisery Guts/Cherry Ghost/By the Sea

Kazimier, Wolstenholme Square
7th May 2010

Reviewed by Richard Lewis

It’s not long after 8 pm and the Kazimier is well on the way to capacity. Openers and Wirral four-piece By the Sea have been building up quite a buzz around them, their gently uncoiling songs ebb out from the stage like a Merseyside variant on Doves and the quieter moments of 'A Storm in Heaven' era Verve. Aside from the inevitable comparisons with fellow Peninsula-dwellers The Coral, By the Sea act as a digest of Scouse/Wirral sounds, their melodic shimmer reminiscent of Shack and The La’s, without overstating the influence of any of the above. The penultimate track however, driven by a looped bassline, lap-steel guitar and a Syd Barrett-era Floyd vocal incantation offers a route that would be fascinating if they decided to follow it further. The Bunnymen inflection present in the group’s vocals is borne out by the closing cover of ‘Porpoise’, trading in the former’s bare bones post punk for rippling guitars.

From the other side of Liverpool Bay, and ostensibly tonight’s headliners, Southport’s Misery Guts (see photo left) make an impact as soon as they hit the stage. The group have the unique visual hook of being a four piece band with two nylon strung acoustic guitars front and centre. The opening track sounds like Sufjan Steven’s prior to his ‘Fifty States Project’, backed up with a full rhythm section. The group avoid the predictable format of acoustic strummers sat down on stools, with the strident vocals of frontman David Hirst well to the fore. 'The World Turns’ - the fourth track off the forthcoming ‘More Human Than Human’ EP - shows off the band’s dynamics by breaking down into a nylon strung led passage before picking up momentum again with the rest of the group.

Switching to electric lead guitar halfway through thankfully doesn’t prompt any cries of ‘Judas!’, and gives the group a Byrdsian chime. ‘If You Ever’, the penultimate track of the set cheekily segues into The La’s totemic ‘There She Goes’, to cheers of recognition from the audience. A brave move, as it proves how their own track stands up beside it.

By the time Cherry Ghost take to the stage to launch into new song ‘Black Fang’, the floor is heaving. ‘Only a Mother’ follows, its expansive sound evoking peak form Coldplay. Showcasing tracks from their long-awaited second album, the band power through nine new songs in a fifteen strong set. Throwing one of their biggest hits, 'Thirst For Romance' in third, the band progress through the new LP with aplomb. Possible new single contender ‘We Sleep on Stones’ is dropped into the set late on, followed by the anthemic - and Ivor Novello award-winning - ‘People Help the People’.

Concluding with a cover of The Cars’ ‘Drive’ and new track ‘Luddite’ shortly after midnight, the group’s endorsement from sources as disparate as James Dean Bradfield and Doves’ Jimi Goodwin is understandable. The bands on tonight’s bill taken as a whole complement each other perfectly, as the various groups’ influences, new and old (Cherry Ghost are currently touring with The Coral and Doves) offer up a uniquely North by Northwest take on the current state of indie music.

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