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Cathode Ray - Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, 7/9/2012

  by John Clarkson

published: 7 / 10 / 2012

Cathode Ray - Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, 7/9/2012


John Clarkson finds enthralling the Cathode Ray's intense post punk at a gig at the Wee Red Bar in their native Edinburgh

Now in their second line-up, the Edinburgh-based post-punk band the Cathode Ray have been a growing presence on the Scottish music circuit and since the release of their delayed debut album in April of this year. ‘The Cathode Ray’, which has come out on front man Jeremy Thoms’ own label Stereogram Records, was an Album of the Month on Janice Forsyth’s influential Saturday morning show on Radio Scotland. For several weeks it was also the second bestselling album in Avalanche Records, Edinburgh’s biggest surviving independent record store. On the live scene, the Cathode Ray have also made steady progress. There have been regular shows in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and these gigs, which included a Pennyblackmusic Bands’ Night set in June in the latter city at the now sadly closed Bay bar, have attracted a small, but enthusiastic following. Tonight’s show at the Wee Red Bar in the Edinburgh Art College has been sponsored by a local music website the Sound Project www.thesoundproject.org.uk, and is the latest in a series of excellent Friday night monthly local band showcases that the Sound Project puts on there. It has a lot in common with the Pennyblackmusic show in that the act beneath the Cathode Ray on the bill is by chance again the Edinburgh-born, but Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Roy Moller. Moller, once described by 6 Music’s Marc Riley as “Scotland’s best kept secret”, was the co-writer on several Belle and Sebastian songs including ‘Seymour Stein’ with their guitarist Stevie Jackson, and his skewed form of guitar pop has a strong observational slant. Moller is in teasing, sardonic mood as, playing acoustically and largely unaccompanied, he occasionally stops to check his set list on his mobile phone. His seven song set opens with a short, abrasive version of Lou Reed’s 1978 ode to masochism, ‘Gimme Some Good Times, Gimme Some Pain'. There are several tracks including the title number from his third album, ‘The Singing’s Getting Better’, and the set concludes with ‘A Meeting’, a furious attack on televangelism and fundamentalist hypocrisy, which is one of two songs tonight to involve local poet Michael Pedersen. They make an eccentric, but appealing duo, the young poet bent over almost double as he spits out his metaphor-lavished poems, while the considerably older Moller happily hammers out his acoustic chords and weaves in and out of his own songs with his lyrics. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Thoms, bassist Neil Baldwin and drummer David Mack spent twenty years in and out of each other’s bands and acts such as Skyline and New Leaf before forming the Cathode Ray with former Josef K front man Paul Haig in 2006. What shines through tonight, and befits a group who have spent so long in their various incarnations working together, is what a tight musical unit the Cathode Ray are. Lead guitarist Steve Fraser, who replaced Haig after he quit after two singles in 2009, is also an excellent addition to the line-up. His ringing chords have a depth and weight that helps to push the group far beyond the perimeters of post-punk. and which mixes it together with elements of 60’s garage rock, glam rock and psychedelia. This is a relentless, breathless set, partially exaggerated by the Cathode Ray being up against a strict curfew and time limit of forty minutes, and partially, as those in the audience who have seen them before are aware, even if they hadn’t had to drop a couple of numbers as they have done tonight, they would be like this anyway. Jeremy Thoms’ delivers his lyrics with a clipped forcefulness and brusque fury, but strip them away and they reveal a sense of estrangement and paranoiac anxiety. It is at odds with the married father-of-two’s personality off stage, and who there is quietly spoken and charmingly polite. “You were my only choice/I’m always on the outside looking in,” he snips on the churning opening number, ‘Lost and Found’, eying voyeuristically someone who has not so much run out on him, but one suspects has probably not ever been even dimly aware of him in the first place. As the set moves on things become if anything more warped and twisted still. “It’s a dispersal, dispersal/Everything becomes fragmented/The party line’s been circumvented,” he sings on recent single, ‘Dispersal’, a number, which while it is on the surface possibly the most upbeat track of the evening, has the same dark intensity as everything else on show tonight. ‘The Race’, the final track on ‘The Cathode Ray’, appears mid-set, and is a number that Thoms’ gamely admits that David Mack doesn’t like very much. Mack, who travels up from Middlesbrough for gigs having moved there a couple of years ago, shrugs and seems happy to play it anyway. It is a slow, sinister-sounding tune that builds in force, and shows a total detachment from society (“Somebody called me from far away/What day is today?/Another time another place/Feels like I’ve run the race”). The ten song set is concluded with the stomping Heartbreakers-style trash rock of ‘What’s It All About?’, the Cathode Ray’s 2006 first single, which was recorded originally with Paul Haig on lead vocals. But Thoms’ has here made it his blistering own, replacing Haig’s mock-lazy drawl (“My brain is hurting/Just to get the words out/I’m looking at you/I need to scream and shout”) with a cold anger and fury. Afterwards Jeremy Thoms and Steve Fraser chat and banter with friends and fans. David Mack prepares for the long journey back down south, and Neil Baldwin, amiably bidding the others good night, dashes off to catch a last bus. A lot of us a lot of the time feel at odds with the rest of existence or float in the blacker margins of the mind. The Cathode Ray have the honesty and bravery to tackle these feelings head on. They are always melodic enough to be accessible, too dark, however, in focus to ever make really comfortable listening. The Cathode Ray are an always rewarding act, and a captivating live experience. Cathode Ray Set List: Lost and Found Dispersal Train Slipping Away Patience is a Virtue The Race Against the Wall Get a Way Around What’s It All About?

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Cathode Ray - Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, 7/9/2012

Cathode Ray - Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, 7/9/2012

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