General Fiasco – Live Review

Sound Control, Manchester  – 08/03/2010

by Ian Burke 

Motionless and pudding-faced as they grub their way through a set of competent, simple indie-pop, there has surely never been a band less in need of a second guitarist as The Mandigans. The local sextet exist in a charisma vacuum, and although they aren’t even close to breaking out of their teens yet, it wouldn’t be irresponsible to suggest that they start downing drugs and whisky and get their finger nails dirty.

Pegasus Bridge are basically Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Musical, so cringeworthy and riddled with clichés is their performance. Each and every new beat sees one of the band encouraging the gaggle of girlies in the front rows to Clap Your Hands Above Your Head Like This, and while Ed is a well-mannered heartbreaker of a frontman, the real star of the show is Cal, Macclesfield’s very own Rick Wakeman.

He doesn’t just do the handclap thing, but he does showbiz spins behind his giant bank of three keyboards, and headbangs like he’s in Slayer at all the wrong moments. Stage moves by Prince, but executed by a level 35 wood elf.

Fortunately, Belgian duo, The Black Box Revelation bring some sanity to proceedings. Their ‘Set Your Head On Fire’ début and its quietly snuck out follow-up, this year’s ‘Silver Threats’, are chocka-block with groove laden, aggressive blues.

Their sludgy approach starts off as total anathema among the mass of hair extensions pushed up against Sound Control’s crash barriers, but they’re soon won around, helped no doubt, by the first showing of the new venue’s tremendous lighting rig, and Jan Paternoster somehow managing to command the enormous stage despite being necessarily glued to his mic.

A lusty scream – a proper Top Of The Pops pant-wetter – greets a rather bashful General Fiasco, the Derry trio whose mildly infectious brand of pop-rock has been taken to the bosom of the more discerning college girls of the nation, not to mention a supremely drunk lady by the sound desk, her arrhythmic dancing looking like a cross between a jitterbug champ and a frightened spider.

Although their ‘Buildings’ début album is still a couple of weeks away from hitting the shelves, the majority of tracks feel like old slippers so frequent have their visits to Manchester been of late (this is their fourth in six months). ‘We Are The Foolish’, with its incisive riff, all-out catchiness and inspired drum fill in the chorus, is a perfect opener in every respect apart from one: it’s easily their best tune, and it’s always going to be downhill afterwards.

The Strathern brothers, Owen (bass/vox) and Enda (guitar), stand a good 15ft apart, the former unable to keep his hands out of his hair between songs, while drummer Stephen Leacock is by far the busiest of the three, thwacking his kit more viciously than just about anyone who has passed through the city this year.

The production on ‘Buildings’ has mainstream popdom very much in mind, but their live show retains some muscle, ‘Something Sometime’ and ‘Sinking Ships’ being especially potent. However, the band still seem stuck between two stools, but album number two should sort out where their hearts really lie.

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