“You’re the best band around!” someone behind me yelled out. Were they? I had no idea, but then again I’m not the type of person who knows things like that.
In the middle of popular noise producers iLiKETRAiNS, I began to muse on what exactly it was that I did know. I knew that Troubles, who had just been on, were 4/6ths of Hope of the States, only because a far more knowledgeable partner in crime had told me. I was also aware that comparing anything and everything I saw to Mogwai might be a good idea, but most people put this to me before I had a chance to put it to them. Apart from that, I realised, I knew nothing.
Later, comforted by the fact that knowing nothing about life had not so far prevented me from being alive, I sat down to write anyway, furiously trying to think of synonyms for the word ‘crescendo’, and a vaguely novel group to compare iLiKETRAiNS to.
So I don’t know if this was the best stuff around. But it was certainly pretty special, from the moment the highly talented Troubles shuffled unassumingly onto stage. Barely making eye contact with the crowd and refusing even to introduce themselves, they communicated solely through their music, epic walls of sound, each slowly building to a spine-tingling climax.
A relatively silent crowd did the ‘stand and appreciate’ thing. Each track ended almost suddenly, the audience snapping out of a weirdly personal reverie to applaud slightly, as if confused they had finished.
Was it a grand take on life, all beauty and cruelty rolled into one, a Planet Earth soundtrack made to measure (if only Sigur Ros hadn’t got there first)? Or were these sweeping rythms a more intimate reflection on personal experience? These questions remained unanswered, as Troubles sloped off as quietly as they had come.
iLiKETRAiNS were a different proposition, an equally large sound but a slightly darker, more embittered tone. If they were about life it was a realisation of limits, not limitless possibilities. “Is this the price we pay for progress?” Dave Martin intoned glumly, a price clearly too high for him. If Troubles are in their first flush of youth, iLiKETRAiNS are in their glum middle ages. “They’ve pushed me too far/too far” he sang. Indeed.
Moody soundscapes were interspersed innocuously with Martin’s deadpan comic turns, joking with the crowd he seemed pleasingly unable to take himself very seriously. Jack Dee crossed with Mogwai I mused, happy that I had found a comparison that no-one else had mentioned yet, even if it was a bit shite.
By the end, at least I knew something. iLiKETRAiNS are epiphanous, climactic, final, cacophonous post-rock, and very very good – if not the best thing around, they must be up there.