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Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Whirlpool

Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss and Fjord Rowboat at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne might think that after last weekend’s three-day salute to the ’90s I’d be ready to get back to the 21st century, musically-speaking, but instead last Wednesday night turned the dial on the wayback-machine even further – Chapterhouse was in town. The North American leg of their reunion tour, which began in late 2009, was delayed from May until this Fall due to volcanic ash though the Toronto show was cancelled earlier for reasons unknown. Hogtown was back on for the new dates, however, and at a larger venue no less that was respectably filled. Clearly whatever reason nixed the original date wasn’t lack of interest.

For anyone with even a passing affection for the British shoegazing movement of the early ’90s, it was hard not to be interested – My Bloody Valentine aside, this was the only first-wave shoegaze band in recent memory to reunite, let alone play shows in North America, in well over a decade (if anyone wants to fact-check that statement, feel free). And while Chapterhouse weren’t as seminal – in my eyes/ears, anyways – as the likes of Ride, Slowdive or Lush, their credentials are indisputable and their debut Whirlpool an essential listen for the genre. Which is basically another way of saying, “if you are a shoegaze fan and Chapterhouse come to your town, you go”.

Locals Fjord Rowboat know how that goes, but for them it was “if Chapterhouse comes to your town, you lend them your gear and open for them”. Which they did, and in return got to play an impressive show for probably a more receptive audience than they’ve ever had. I used Chapterhouse as a reference point their 2007 debut Saved The Compliments For Morning and that still holds for the just-released follow-up Under Cover Of Brightness, the band remaining faithful to the spirit of shoegazing while remembering, unlike many modern-day purveyors of the style, that what made the greats great was that underneath the layers of sound, there were solid songs. And in the interests of disclosure, I should mention that Fjord has two former bandmates in their number. High five!

I’d lived the Ulrich Schnauss experience twice before and thought I’d figured out the secret to appreciating his electro-ambient stuff – close your eyes. Then you don’t notice that the entire “live” set consists of Schnauss playing preprogrammed tracks off his laptop while adding keyboards overtop or mixing things in real-time, or at least I assume that’s what he was doing – I couldn’t actually hear anything changing in the mix as he clicked and fiddled. This time his set came with its own visual component – projections of European urban scenes, mostly looking as though they’d been filmed from a moving car, which held ones interest for a while but after they began to loop, one’s attention began to wander. By the end, I had a new way to enjoy Schnauss’ set – as a particularly cosmic soundtrack to a game of iPhone Civilization.

One of the first thing you notice about Chapterhouse is how young they all still look – all five are barely 40 (if even) and frontmen Andrew Sherriff and Stephen Patman still look remarkably boyish. This is less a comment on their skin care regimen than the fact that they were barely into their twenties (if even) when Whirlpool was released and so, returning to Toronto for the first time in nearly 20 years, they still seemed younger than many acts making their debuts. Also setting them apart from many other acts on the road today was the fact that they weren’t out trying to win over new fans or make a name for themselves – if you were there, you knew why and what you were going to get and were just happy to be there. This isn’t to suggest that the bar for performance was lowered at all, but any mistakes or less-than-perfection – and there was some, in the way of feedback (the bad kind, not the good kind), some awkward re-learning of songs onstage and a “Crystal” that wasn’t as tight or together as you’d want – were quickly and easily forgiven.

Instead, it was much easier to focus on the good. There was the seemingly endless rotation of my favourite guitars and the massive sounds the three guitarists coaxed out of them, including Simon Rowe whose status in Mojave 3 is as unclear as the band’s itself and who missed their last tour. There was their cover of The Beatles’ “Rain”, which got a pass on my usual “no Beatles covers please” rule, their pretty much perfect rendering of “Pearl” – more than making up for “Crystal” – and a set list that, while curiously light on their second album Blood Music, delivered almost all of Whirlpool and a selection of b-sides and rarities that they must have known would be appreciated by an audience of the faithful.

While they were hardly monsters of rock onstage, it was hard to imagine that their performances inspired the originally-derisive “shoegaze” label – sure, Rowe stood pretty much stock-still through the set but Sherriff and Patman moved around and hardly glanced at their feet. Of course, unlike many of their peers Chapterhouse have always been as much about the groove as the wall of sound, sometimes referred to as “baggy-gaze” and moving further towards dance and electronic sounds with Blood Music. None of which makes them sound any more contemporary, but no one was here for contemporary. We were here for 1990 and Chapterhouse brought it.

Prefix and The Faster Times have Chapterhouse interviews and Jess Barnett a conversation with Ulrich Schnauss. Exclaim and Panic Manual have reviews of the Toronto show.

Photos: Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss, Fjord Rowboat @ Lee’s Palace – October 6, 2010
MP3: Chapterhouse – “Pearl”
MP3: Ulrich Schnauss – “Passing By”
MP3: Fjord Rowboat – “Carried Away”
MP3: Fjord Rowboat – “Paragon”
Video: Chapterhouse – “Breather”
Video: Chapterhouse – “April”
Video: Ulrich Schnauss – “Medusa”
Video: Fjord Rowboat – “Carried Away”
MySpace: Chapterhouse
MySpace: Fjord Rowboat

Beatroute and The Boston Globe talk to The Vaselines; they’re in town on October 30 for a show at The Horseshoe.

The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Record and DCist have feature pieces on Teenage Fanclub.

NPR talks to Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian. He and his band are at Massey Hall tonight and their new album Write About Love is also out today – the promo TV talk show put together for the record is streaming at PitchforkTV and the performance of “I Want The World To Stop” from said programme has been excerpted as the first official video from the record.

Video: Belle & Sebastian – “I Want The World To Stop”
Video: Belle & Sebastian Write About Love

A track from Idlewild’s latest (and final?) album Post-Electric Blues has been made available to download to mark the album’s North American release today.

MP3: Idlewild – “Younger Than America”

Drowned In Sound has gone a little British Sea Power-crazy, what with the release of the new Zeus EP in advance of next year’s new full-length – they’ve commissioned a number of features from the band, including their top five UK castles, ten things they wish they hadn’t done, the joy of knitting and a guide to keeping amused on the road.

Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes takes to the band’s blog to thank fans for their support as he convalesces from surgery for a brain tumour while Clash talks to frontman Tim Burgess. A track from their new record Who We Touch has been made available to download.

MP3: The Charlatans – “Love Is Ending”

Barry Hyde of The Futureheads tells Spinner they’re planning on releasing an a capella record early next year.

The Fly has a first listen to the new White Lies record Ritual, due out January 17 in the UK.

A whole slew of new videos in the past few days from the other side of the Atlantic – let’s start with Kele, who has a new clip from his solo record The Boxer.

Video: Kele – “On The Lam”

Foals have rolled out a new video from their second record Total Life Forever.

Video: Foals – “Blue Blood”

Mystery Jets have a new short from this year’s Serotonin. eFestivals and MusicOmh also have interviews.

Video: Mystery Jets – “Show Me The Light”

6 Day Riot have a video for the first single from their forthcoming record On This Island, available in the UK on November 1.

Video: 6 Day Riot – “Take Me Out”

Oxford University’s Cherwell talks to Kate Nash, who has a new single to coincide with her North American tour. It kicks off later this month and includes a date at The Phoenix on November 13.

Video: Kate Nash – “Later On”

For whatever reason, the powers that be have decided that the UK video for La Roux’s “In For The Kill”, out for over a year, just won’t cut it for American audiences and have commissioned a new one. I guess their focus groups demanded more snakes, less cars.

Video: La Roux – “In For The Kill” (US)
Video: La Roux – “In For The Kill” (UK)

The Telegraph talks to Duffy, who releases her second album Endlessly on November 30.

Word is Johnny Flynn’s October 18 show at Lee’s Palace has been postponed until mid-November; all other shows on the North American jaunt, including the 19th in Montreal, appear to still be on, so no idea what the problem with T.O. is. Anyone else hear “Kentucky Pill” on last week’s Weeds? Of course not, because no one with any dignity should admit to watching Weeds anymore. Me, I just heard about it. On the Twitter. Yeah.

Spinner talks to Elvis Costello about his new album National Ransom, out November 2. You can download a track from the record at his website.

Norway’s Serena-Maneesh have rolled out a new video from S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor.

Video: Serena-Maneesh – “D.I.W.S.W.T.T.D.”

NPR is streaming a complete show from The Tallest Man On Earth.

By : Frank Yang at 8:33 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post9 Responses.
  1. Scott says:

    If you count Swervedriver as shoegaze (contentious labelling to be sure), then their reunion would fall under the early-wave of reunions for their show last year… which I missed… *sigh*

    Chapterhouse, on the other hand, I *ALMOST* missed, and am very glad I did not. They seemed to be having fun, which was crucial for me…

    Here’s hoping the rumoured DVD of this reunion does come about. The 5-track one they were selling at the show is great, if a tad “under-produced”(no track breaks etc)…

  2. Frank Yang says:

    oh, forgot about Swervedriver. Funny how the bands I like but don’t love from that era are getting back together, but my personal faves (Ride, Lush, Slowdive) will probably never happen.

  3. Scott C says:

    The Telescopes sort of reformed (or never broke up). But yeah, I definitely agree that the bands I like from that era seem to reform, while the bands I love will probably never reform (except My Bloody Valentine). I was hoping Oasis breaking up would bring back Ride, but that’s probably not going to happen.

  4. Frank Yang says:

    that Ride turned down the opportunity to open for Radiohead in Oxford a few years ago pretty much guaranteed it’ll never happen. There’s not enough of a financial payday to make it worth their while since they’d never headline Glasto or Reading or Coachella or anything.

  5. Steve says:

    Hey Frank,

    Do you know what time that settimes website updates with times for the day? I’m looking for the schedule for Belle & Sebastian tonight. Have you heard anything?

  6. Frank Yang says:

    settimes.ca is only good for livenation shows. B&S is collective concerts

    http://www.collectiveconcerts.com/index.php?mode=detailedView&concertID=1206

    zeus @ 8
    B&S@ 9:15

  7. Scott says:

    And the whole promoter pulling the rug out on Lush…

    I guess you could also sort of consider the JAMC reunion in here…

  8. Frank Yang says:

    wait, what’s this about Lush? I thought that after Chris died they just gave it up and Miki got out of music entirely, with no interest in getting back together. was something supposed to happen?

  9. Less than useful » Chapterhouse + Ulrich Schnauss + Fjord Rowboat: Lee’s Palace on 06/10/2010 says:

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