Tuesday midnight in the Crane Lane. No sign of a recession anyway. The smoking area’s thronged as always, Ian Richards has the laydeez moving in the back bar to sweet soul sounds and the theatre is busy, tequila slammers doing a particularly roaring trade for some reason. Some are here specially to see Myles Manley, some are just passing through, some clearly don’t know where they are.
Some of the crowd has also arrived to see The Vincent(s), who are up first (love the bracket(s)). Here are a few things you should know. They are made up of members of various Cork bands (Saint Yorda, Daphne in the Attic, and possibly others). They consist of five young men, tonight wearing dresses (think thrift-shop chic). They play a brand of bass-heavy, swampy psych rock and quickly empty the venue of a good number of “tourists” with their vicious opening blast. They eschew tunes for the most part in favour of thumping big-beat boogies. Their singer has a fine howl on him, a la Roky Eriksson at his most anguished – he also tells the crowd to get fucked at one point. The between-song banter is sung, not spoken. They swap instruments between most tunes. For their last song, they are joined by someone with a bag over his/her head to play drums. There’s a saxophone involved, although it only rises above the mayhem at the most manic moments. This is their 4th gig, I believe, and it shows in the sagginess of the set. Despite/because of all this, they are an intriguing bunch who I’ll be interested to see again. Not sure about the dresses.
During The Vincent(s)’ set, Myles Manley paces the back of the room, as if getting a feel for his audience. Onstage, he cuts an odd dash – lanky, with a floppy, sideways fringe of curls. His voice also has an unusual lilting, back of the throat quality, a little like Ron Sexsmith in places. However, there’s nothing odd about his guitar style – an immediately engaging and very appealing right hand muting close to the bridge. It’s a crucial thread through the hour-long set, along with his elongated and characteristic vocal inflections.
The Little People turn out to be three guys – elec guitar/bass/drums – all even taller than the not-short Manley. As backing bands go, they’re top notch and at it from note one. The rhythm section in particular adds plenty to the arrangements with a deft hi-hat touch here and pulsing right hand bass switch there. That’s all fine as it goes but it wouldn’t count for much in the absence of tunes. Happily, there are also more than a few of these, and far from mediocre at that. ‘I fuck your wife’, ‘Easy to love’, ‘You’re young enough to come back home’ and ‘Music for white people’ (that last one seemed to be left out of last night’s set, unless I was distracted) are all AM radio gold, tunes to hum with your elbow in the sun as you speed along the N21.
And the tunes shone last night, coasting on that vocal which is a strange mixture of plaintiff and sprightly. The band knew when to hold their fire, and when to release. The songs even showed themselves as dance music by the end, as a few revellers threw each other around underneath Manley’s dispassionate gaze.
On the subject, I will say that I found his stage presence a little tentative, disengaged even, although Tuesday night in the Crane is a challenge on that score, no doubt. The absence of backing vocals was also felt, compared to the perfectly pitched contributions on the s/t EP released in March. But I suppose if I had my way, these songs would be performed every night with string and brass sections, not to mention backing vocalists, in venues where tourists would have to be checked at the door.
Because, you see, this is progressive pop music with vitality and a big heart, containing winsome melodies to lodge in your brain and soundtrack your life, which still manages to keep a decisive edge on chart fodder.
Music to fall in love to, really, even in the Crane Lane on a Tuesday.