Band reunions have to follow certain rules if they’re going to be big news. First they need to wait for the optimum time, which judging by recent successful comebacks from the likes of Pavement and the Pixies is at least 10 years. Second, there has to be some catchy story to go with it, ideally involving acrimonious splits and happy reconciliation.
Electrelane aren’t following the rules though. For a start, they never really split up, they only ever said they were going on hiatus, and returning after less than four years away is less than some bands take to release their next album. And there’s no kiss and make up story, just four friends deciding to play some shows together again.
So although there’s been no press or hype (DiS aside), there have still been a lot of eager fans, desperate to see the formerly Brighton-based four piece again and there are about a thousand of them tonight, crammed tightly into the Scala. It all makes for an ideal gig experience, because even though I was at the back of the venue, there was none of the usual industry types making idle chatter (Electrelane don’t even have a record company these days), just rapt attention as Mia Clarke, Verity Susman, Emma Gaze and Ros Murray take to the stage.
I had booked tickets months ago for this gig, but as it approached I began to worry a little that my levels of excitement and anticipation were so high that I could only be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. Electrelane were amazing. Standing where I last saw them over four years ago, they blew me away once again. Perhaps even more so this time. In the intervening years, I’ve spent more time with their back catalogue, loving the songs more, but perhaps forgetting that playing live, Electrelane take it to the next level. The killer rhytm section of Gaze and Murray pound out blistering motorik grooves. Susman’s vocals seem stronger than ever. And Clarke is still wowing with mad guitar skills whilst making it look no bother at all. And all of them seem genuinely happy to be playing again.
With no album to promote, they were free to plunder their impressive back catalogue, and the setlist drew mainly from their two Steve Albini-recorded albums The Power Out and Axes. I could have been disappointed by the presence of only one song from No Shouts, No Calls (the goosebump-inducing ‘To the East’), but with so much other awesomeness on display it would be daft to complain. Even the likes of ‘Long Dark’, which I’ve never given much time to, was jaw-droppingly good, thanks mainly to some guitar heroics. The encore included the usual cover of ‘I’m on Fire’, but the real surprise was their version of ‘Small Town Boy’. How many bands can cover Springsteen and Bronski Beat and pull it off?
This time around, Electrelane are definitely playing it by their own rules. Their decison to return for the briefest of European tours (they haven’t been tempted to North America), their (massively partisan) crowd, their well-chosen setlist. They’re doing it their way and hopefully making some decent money from it too. If anyone deserves that, and a brief moment in the sun, it’s Electrelane. Who knows when I’ll see them again - a thought that makes being at this gig feel even more of a privelage.
mp3: Electrelane – Only One Thing is Needed
mp3: Electrelane – To the East
Buy all of Electrelane’s albums. Yes, even the b-sides compliation. You know it makes sense. If you’re wondering where to start, try The Power Out. That’s where I began.