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The Final Weekend: Broken Records and Modest Mouse

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Broken Records return to the live circuit in their homeland was as much a farewell as it was a triumphant homecoming. This was the first time in a year that they had played the city which had been there home during their rise to become one of the most exciting new bands in Britain 18 months ago, but it was also to be the last time that their original line-up would grace the stage as one.

Two of the bands members, Gill and Arne, are moving on to new things- the former “full time employment” and the latter Germany. Both were integral parts of debut album Until the Earth Beings to Part, which earned the Edinburgh seven-piece plaudits and comparisons to Arcade Fire. This air of nostalgia was clear in this set- the largely local crowd wanted to here the hits that put the band on the map in the first place.

For a large part, they got what they wanted; lead singer Jamie Sutherland’s haunting and potent voice interweaved with a plethora of musical accompaniment- drums, bass, keyboard, electric cello, trumpet and three guitars featuring at various stages- that give this band a powerful presencethat makes it hard not to pay attention.

But Broken Records’ new material is equally commanding. There is an increasingly lively sense to the tracks that will dominate Let Me Come Home, their follow-up due for release in October (you can read my interview with Sutherland about the album here.) Again, the ranging instrumental mix matches Sutherland’s lyrics beautifully- despite the stage looking a bit cramped, there is no sense that there is too much going on musically.

Not that the new album, based on their Edge festival performance, leaves behind their trademark sound. A duet with Jill O’Sullivan from support act Sparrow and the Workshop exhibits authoritative vocal prowess and would have been well placed in the band’s debut. Whatever alternative direction the band’s direction takes in the coming months, with a full UK tour planned, there is no sign that they will abandon the formula that got them noticed in the first place.

Whilst Broken records have not quite reached the levels of academies that would perhaps suit their plethoric sound, Modest Mouse have. Playing the Picture House the follow night- a comparatively intimate venue for a band used to gracing stages at musical festivals around Europe and North America- there was again the instrumental mix that defined this weekend.

Whilst it may have been 2007 when Modest Mouse really hit the ground running in terms of success, they have developed a committed following over the past two decades, and this gig was about exhibiting their extensive back catalogue. There is a sense that the formula here has been strictly followed- a large part of what Modest Mouse do sounds similar, with little room for any radical divergence. Not that this is a bad thing- there is a reason that they have had a following over such a long period of time, and a reason that so many of those enthralled by We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank continue to delve into their older material. Those fans that only swing into action for hits like ‘Float On’ stand in happy appreciation of the band’s pre-2007 material.

Modest Mouse have also seen comparisons to the Canadian outfit Broken Records were constantly likened to in their early days, but that seems to be little more than a reference to their large, stadium-esque presence. They have their own recognisable style, though the fact that much of this set can be related to their biggest hit- ‘Float on’- may be an indication that they have not made the stylistic jump that Broken Records are currently in the midst off.

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Written by Nick Eardley

September 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm