Syd Arthur, Live

Syd Arthur and Broken Hands live in London

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Support band Broken Hands have the dronedelic urgency and motorik relentlessness of late-80s band Loop, or even early Verve.

With their fringes where their faces should be, they even look like renegades from that era, like students masquerading as Hells Angels. Their Krautrockin’ quasi-biker anthems are, in a way, anti-prog, the opposite of complexity and fuss: one track seems to comprise just one chord and vast swathes of noise. Darkly promising.

Syd Arthur should be the pastoral quiet after that electric storm, but a muddy PA conspires to make the Canterbury scenesters sound more metallic than they probably should. Still, you can make out their music through the murk (mirrored by the miasmic haze created by the dry ice), and it’s distinctly jazzy – jazzy rock, although not jazz rock as such. They can be funkily rhythmic, or as itchily twitchy as prog. Their slower, spacier numbers bring to mind Level 42 locked in a studio with Lindisfarne and Lee Perry. They’re eclectic types, as you might expect from a band who have been touring with Sean Lennon’s The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger and Yes. And they draw a diverse crowd, although it’s younger than you might imagine, confirmation of the continuing appeal of prog – and its numerous variants and hybrid offshoots – to a new generation. One chap takes it upon himself to dance to every tune, describing every change in tone and rhythmic shift with a different shape. He especially seems to enjoy the spasms and surges of Hometown Blues. There’s a fabulous, fluid interplay between the musicians onstage, the Magill brothers duelling majestically as Raven Bush proves himself worthy of the family name (his aunty Kate acquitted herself fairly well too, in Hammersmith the night before). Autograph is progressive soul with added funkadelia, offering the joys of freakout as well as an opportunity to enjoy the dexterous fingerwork of the players, even if some of the intricacies are lost in live translation. Sometimes the melody is prioritised; at others, the songs appear to be launchpads for Syd Arthur to solo wild and free. The tracks where Bush plays violin, often quite vigorously, take the music someplace else, and when they hit a muscular groove, they really do offer an alternative to their recorded work. It’s when they truly hit their stride and break free from song conventions that Paul Weller’s favourite new band do justice to the acclaim they’ve been getting: Singularity could well be Can jamming with Caravan in Caracas via Krakatoa. Explosive.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.