Shearwater - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK

by Andy Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2013-04-01

Shearwater has been around since 1999, making it all the more surprising that I’ve only heard them this year with the release of their eighth studio album, Jet Plane and Oxbow. It’s an expansive, layered record that combines Jonathan Meiburg’s pop sensibilities with a sense of restless urgency and a subtle undercurrent of dissent. It’s an album that grows in my estimation with each new listen, suggesting tonight’s show could be something quite special indeed.

Before Jonathan Meiburg and co take to the stage we’re introduced to fellow Texan’s, Cross Record. Another new discovery for this particular writer; the duo skilfully builds a set around guitar, vocals, keyboard, stripped-back percussion and rumbling drones. Emily Cross’s voice sits at the centre, a slight yet powerful whisper that calmly sings you to shipwreck. The songs are short, subtle and brilliantly effective; combining ghostly harmonies with raw, bluesy drones that rise and fall throughout. The songs seem to float from one to another, creating a dreamlike ambience that holds the Brudenell completely under its spell.  

Lit by a number of brightly coloured neon-lights, Shearwater takes to the stage. Meiburg tells us that they’ll mainly be playing songs from Jet Plane and Oxbow tonight, clearly proud of their latest effort and keen to expose as many ears as possible to their latest creation.

Opening with the atmospheric, synth-led ‘Prime’ works perfectly, preparing the ground with the songs rallying call of “come on, come on”. This leads into the propulsive, danceable rhythms of ‘Filaments’, the songs relentlessly urgent bass-line raising heart-rates throughout the room. It’s the kind of incessant, repetitive groove that I could quite happily listen to all night.

Meiburg has described the new LP as a protest record of sorts and, although often subtle, the anger is certainly there. Take the shiny, 80’s synth-pop of ‘Quiet Americans’ with its opening, end-of-days declaration that, “I can’t help it, if all the world is ending”. You can feel it in the music too, for every melodic moment there’s something altogether more volatile lying just under the surface. It’s these juxtapositions that give tonight’s show its momentum.

There’s perhaps a subliminal hint at what’s to come later with the arrival of, ‘Wildlife in America’. Lying there in the songs unabashed, hand-aloft euphoria sits the spirit of Scary Monsters era David Bowie. Maybe it’s just me but you can pretty much sing ‘Teenage Wildlife’ over some of the songs expansive, widescreen guitars. It’s these pop-sensibilities that balance out the sets more intense moments (and the state-of-America lyrics) and make the overall feeling somewhat celebratory.

Sticking predominantly to the new material works well, giving the set a sense of cohesion and purpose. However, every band needs to have a little fun sometimes. As Shearwater is cheered back to the stage for an encore they run through a few Bowie tracks from 1979’s Lodger LP. It’s a style that suits the band well and a rather unexpected, but thoroughly lovely, tribute to the man himself. They’re not particularly young or quiet but after a decade and a half honing their craft these American’s certainly know how to put on a show.

Photography courtesy of Steve White

www.flickr.com/photos/45038662@N00/albums/72157664198758439

 

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars