LIVE REVIEW: Scout Niblett 13/05/2011

16 05 2011

Islington Mill, Salford

Review by Lara Williams

Preceded by former-Gowns singer, EMA, touring her debut album Past Life Martyred Saints and generally strutting around like a preening mental patient – Scout could only go on to raise the bar.

Scout enters wearing a high-visibility jacket – the only piece of clothing that quite literally says ‘notice me’. A cry for help? Almost certainly. More distressing than the high-vis are the pigtails. Scout, you are almost forty, and whilst inferring women should dress or look a certain way on account of their age is a resounding no-no, the exception is made for pigtails. The cut off point for pigtails is no later than ones mid-teens – likewise buckled shoes, hairbands and all manner of other childlike affectations found confusingly on women well into sexual maturity, a prevalence of which that has haunted indie music for some time now. Scout, I thought you were different.

Onto the music! Scout’s central shtick nowadays seems to be a quiet tinkering and whispering, softly softly, then WHOAH REALLY LOUD AND GUITAR-Y AND ‘HELLO? I’M TOTALLY EMOTING OVER HERE’ UNTIL… she falls abruptly back into the quiet reflective part again. Ad infinitum. It gets a bit much, especially as each loud part is launched like it is something genuinely surprising, delivered with an arch, bet you didn’t see that dead loud bit coming in the middle of that quiet bit, huh? Yes we did Scout. We really, totally did.

Interrupting the quiet/loud/quiet carousel of pain, she interjects with a request for requests. A few song titles are sporadically yelped, all which are ignored, and she plays ‘Hot To Death’. It’s a definite highlight of the set and a reminder of her glorious former glories. ‘Kiss’ proves another engaging number, though is somewhat bastardised with seemingly improvised instrumentals. Her set-up consists of just herself and a drummer, and my, what a drummer. The remarkable technical proficiency of both proves immersing, and the systematic shifts in volume eventually lull you into a sort of comforting meditative coma.

Despite Scout’s attempts to project otherwise, there is something exceptionally womanly about her. Pheromones seemingly emanate from her person, and whilst CityLifers would not be caught making crass statements such as, say, if we wanted to watch someone openly menstruate, we’d be watching L7 – we might suggest her songs are a little more girly and poppy than she’d like them to be.

Stripped down and on record, Scout Niblett is considerably more satisfying, her songs delivering an edifying melodic arc, resonant in themselves and un-needing of further experimentation.  Stick to playing the songs as they are Scout, cause honest, they’re usually pretty good.

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