Review: Minor Victories, Village Underground.

As début live shows go, that of Minor Victories is pretty, if predictably, accomplished, polished, and so on and so forth. (Predictably because, comprising members of Mogwai and Slowdive, never could it be suggested that they’ve not got some major pedigree between them.) However, what they lack is a requisite charisma, Rachel Goswell reasoning; nay, recognising “[it’s] kind of weird doing a gig when your record’s not out, and you know none of the songs…”

Of course, she, the glabrous Stuart Braithwaite, James and Justin Lockey know all nine of the songs aired this evening; nevertheless, they do little else with them to compel, or make them completely appealing to those familiar with three or, for that matter, fewer. Of these which we “might know,” the jagged, staggered A Hundred Ropes falls prey to “teething problems,” a contagious ennui visibly contracted by many, if not most in attendance. More false start than failure maybe, but maybe they themselves don’t yet know these songs as well as we might have first thought?

Listless it may be, but the detached atmospherics – which will later give way to Braithwaite’s signature flurries and tremolo-laced furies – of Folk Arp fare considerably better; better yet, and the best to which we can now attest, is Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard): combining Psychocandied scuzz with a Teenage Fanclubbing level of accessibility, The Twilight Sad’s James Graham is, as Neil Halstead has so often been before him, the perfect foil for Goswell’s light, intermittently operatic vox. But this is, to deploy what is probably the most sluggardly wordplay you’ll set eyes on this year, the evening’s minor victory; the exceptional exception, rather than the all-ruling rule…

For elsewhere, Cogs recalls Fear of Men carousing with Free All Angels-era Ash, which is a parallel that possibly makes me out to look as though my cerebral bits and bobs could do with a decent oiling, but it truthfully lacks a necessary slickness of thought, and executionary thoroughness also; cataclysmic it can be in parts, but Breaking My Light leaves us in a similarly cold, dark place. Needless to say, Minor Victories and Slowdive are two very different, if not entirely disparate entities, making pointed comparison superfluous, perhaps; however, without Graham and/ or Halstead, monotony tends to become a most common theme, the evening gravely lacking in vocal diversity.

Yes, there are those moments at which Goswell rides high on the surges and swells of Braithwaite et al., although all too often, her voice represents the figurative alternative to a surfer tumbling down the dramatic curvature of the very biggest kahuna. Lost to clamour more often than not therefore, Higher Hopes may purvey a radiance at once reminiscent of BRAIDS, entangled in faint strains of Róisín Murphy, as synthetic, cinematic strings hang from squalling guitars for dearest life, but any more intricate minutiae are engulfed by the immense enormities of the room and the rumpus likewise.

But ultimately, Minor Victories’ main failing is that whereas, say, Explosions In the Sky (or indeed Mogwai) would reward those who withstand their raucities with revelatory, lulling subtleties here and there, right here, there is neither familiarity nor recompense; only homogeneity for the most part. Which makes Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard), as well as the altogether more tidal, Efterklanging Out to Sea, seem more resplendent than they might have done otherwise, but doesn’t necessarily make “’avin a bit of faith” in the newly forged four-piece any easier…