Lower Than Atlantis - Manchester Academy 2
Forgive me: I know that this pours cold water on the spirit of rock 'n roll, but how about we halt the emergence of our bright young things? The more bands I see of late, particularly from the rock and metal side of the bus, the more I yearn for an ounce or two of good old-fashioned stagecraft. In place of pacing and an artfully programmed set, there seems to exist a reliance on blasting through, say, a half hour support slot as breathlessly as is humanly possible. Rather than developing a smart, wry cameraderie with a crowd ready to be won over, the rock fraternity work instead to exhort and demand.
Stood halfway back, where the average age finally starts to level out at something beginning with a '2' rather than a '1', evidence of resentment emerges. "I wanna see every single one of you mother-f***ers jumping up and down to this one," screams Lower Than Atlantis singer Mike Duce. Lad behind me has had enough: "Just get on with it, you boring bastard." Quite.
He has a point. To develop it fully, take a look at headliners We Are The Ocean. No veterans, to be sure, but new album Go Now and Live (the only album in recent memory to take me back a full 25 years to the glee on Robert Fielding's face when he cemented his position as the school's #1 metalhead with his copy of Stormtroopers of Death's charmingly titled Speak English or Die) takes their post-hardcore beginnings and welds to them a commercial sensibility that explains just why they are opening the main stage at Reading/Leeds this summer. They blow the walls down but boy they're slick. As well drilled as any rock band I've seen of late, their set unfolds with steely precision. They communicate, they respond, they take it up and they bring it down. Manchester is appreciative and then some. In short, they've got it and the festival crowds - including Download, so there's ya crossover - will elevate their standing by leagues. I suspect we won't be seeing them back at the piddling Academy.
Same goes for LTA, but for different reasons, I fear. Onstage, they're clumsy by comparison. Is that fair ? Well let's redress the balance where we can. Current album World Record (their second) has much going for it in the way of melodic punk pop. If I'm not entirely convinced by the band's decision to take the songs down a couple of steps to make it sound "darker", the whole affair convinces by dint of a barrel full of hooks, and lyrics that document a shattered heart and the dread of the road with telling candour. Duce's voice, slightly nasal with with an odd inflection that's hard to pin down, troubles some, I know, but it has range and clarity. It's just that LTA slam their songs sgainst the wall with clumsy vigour when a more measured approach would suit them better. Still, the crowd warms to them despite the irritating mid-song spitting (WTF?) and the Jim McDonald lookalike who spends their entire set stood right behind guitarist Ben Sansom. Lads, seriously, by the time you hit a showcase like Download, make sure you've had a word with the fat bloke with the moustache who's absolutely murdering your live presentation.