Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Earlies + Micah P Hinson + Half-Cousin @ Scala, London

25 October 2004

Not a bad triple bill at the cuboid, and rather cramped, London Scala.

One of Kings Cross’ more salubrious attractions had a triple-bill that had ’nuff goin’ on to provide the purpose for the new Crosslink all by itself.

First up were Half-Cousin who were, if you will excuse the expression, pretty good. Too good to be playing support slots. And if they can sound a little less like Franz Ferdinand (especially on one tune that sounded like a dead ringer for Take Me Out), they might even become as big as… well, as big as these sort of bands ever get. Which is to say as big as The Doves, and not as big as U2. For that to happen, I think a name change might be in order. How about Half Cousin / Half Biscuit? Or has that been done?

Micah P. Hinson may still be in his early twenties, but possesses lungs that have ravines of experience prematurely ingrained into them. Backed up by The Gospel Of Progress (some of whom suspiciously turn up as The Earlies later on), Hinson’s delicately played songs are halfway between Kurt Wagner and the most stygian of sea-shanties.

Don’t You Forget and the duet I Still Remember are songs that can make the night air stop and listen. On this evidence, Hinson’s debut album may already be an overlooked gem. As the man himself said after Don’t You Forget: ‘That went over well, didn’t it?’

Much has been made of The Earlies‘ Surf’s Up stylings, but the opening blast of Bring It Back Again resembles nothing less than the unrelenting looping drum-thunder of the Chemical Brothers.

Performing on the same day as the single release of Morning Wonder, the band, particularly keyboardist Christian Madden, appear eager to shift a few copies to break into the Top 40. If nothing else, it will ‘validate it to (trombonist’s) Tom’s Mum. She’s a fan of Cliff Richard.’

How many members of The Earlies can you get in the back of a mini? Dunno, but you can probably squeeze them in easier than you can on the stage of The Scala. Still, the band are capable of producing a sound that manages to be at once so both ornate and bare, that it belied their number. One Of Us Is Dead produced moments of such fragile psychedelia that I’m half convinced I had too much to dream last night.

At the other end of the scale, the band are more than capable of blowing some holy skronk. The Devil’s Country revelled in some blasting hornsmanship that recalls some of the Albert Ayler-informed noisefests that informed the first wave of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll. And you know that’s a good thing.

Like The Flaming Lips, The Earlies are the kind of band that, we are told, writes ‘proper pop songs’ , as though Peppery 1967 was Pop’s final evolutionary phase. At times, the band does seem to be too self-satisfied at the cleverness of their skill as arrangers. But then, what is a band without its arrogance? And indeed, it has to be said, lesser mortals have won Mercury prizes. In dimensions and in performance, The Earlies were just too big for The Scala.

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More on The Earlies
The Earlies – The Enemy Chorus
The Earlies + Micah P Hinson + Half-Cousin @ Scala, London
The Earlies – These Were The Earlies