Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Electrelane have been on indefinite hiatus for nearly four years. So tonight’s gig was simply a return rather than anything that could be construed to break my self-imposed ‘no reunion gigs, no greatest hits tour’ rule. Simply a return. But what a return.

After such a lengthy absence, I nearly managed to miss this gig despite buying tickets within days of them going on sale months ago and despite it being an inked-in fixture on the calendar. But a speedy dash across town got me to Academy 3 on the dot of the 9.20 start time and just a few minutes before the band themselves. Despite their ten year-plus history prior to the 2007 announcement I had failed to see Electrelane live.

What struck me as the four piece opened with ‘Gone Under Sea’ was the heads-down-get-on-with-it meticulousness of all four musicians. Only Verity Susman behind banked keyboards made any form of eye contact as she sang – but despite her voice swooping between sombre and shriek for these early songs she was fairly deadpan in her expression. All four had a quiet, intent focus on the intricate repetitive riffs, tight rhythms and slow rise and fall of these songs but without any hint of trepidation or rustiness. From the Stereolab-meets-Neu trio of opening songs the band moved on to include violent Sonic Youth-style guitar string bending and noise from Mia Clarke, squonking saxophone during ‘Only One Thing Is Needed’ and great noisy instrumental wig-outs like ‘Blue Straggler’ (and a host of others I failed to name with accuracy). And for all her initial impassivity, Susman did a fine line in long-haired head-banging at these moments.

If some songs were greeted with cheers of recognition the climaxes seemed to be met with even greater cheers and applause – in recognition of the damn impressive playing plus the visceral power of the songs that sometimes never quite made it on to record. A late-set cover of Bronski Beat’s ‘Small Town Boy’ was a pleasant diversion but I felt it a bit unnecessary – large parts of the crowd clearly disagreed by their reaction. The main set finished with an energetic sequence of their longer instrumentals complete with crowd delirium, dancing and lesbian mosh-pit. This energy was re-awakened and channelled for the encores into the short, sharp new wave pop of ‘I Want To Be The President’ and their cover of ‘I’m On Fire’ – not as delirious as earlier moments but a fun conclusion to a blistering ninety minutes.

Each member of the band deserves plaudits but it was their combined power and assurance that was thrilling tonight. Tonight’s gig, their first UK performance in nearly four years felt like neither a dress rehearsal nor a swan song- but a band at the height of their powers. Electrelane only have 3 more UK gigs and a handful of festivals planned. And then? Well I’d be able to cope with another hiatus if I knew a return like this was guaranteed.

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