Friday, November 24, 2006

Jeremy Warmsley / Absentee @ 93 Feet East, 21 November

In a better, fairer world, this gig would have sold out. Nevermind that, it would have been sold out at somewhere like Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Instead, despite a fair bit of critical acclaim, the great record buying public seem to have been quite slow to pick up on the charms of Jeremy Warmsley and Absentee.

I've seen these guys a few times already this year, and I’ve written quite a bit about both of them this year already on this blog, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much. Both of them have released full-length debuts this year, which are in strong contention for my albums of the year. But they’re both quite different propositions.

Absentee’s strengths lie in their rough-edged charm. Their songs occupy a space that might be labelled as ‘scuzzy Americana’. I’ve always got time for this type of simple, melodic guitar pop. There’s so much to enjoy. Dan Michaelson’s pleasingly gruff vocals, the horn section, lingering at the back, blasting goodness across the songs, Babak's ranging guitar licks, always delivered from out stage right. They’re down-to-earth and affable. There’s nothing particularly original in their music, but there’s just something there for me that makes it all very special.

Tonight in addition to established classics like We Should Never Have Children, Something to Bang and You Try Sober, they play a couple of new songs in their short set. They sound great. The next album’s looking good already.

Jeremy Warmsley is great for almost the opposite reasons. Where Absentee are loose and fuzzy and straightforward, Jeremy and his band are sharp, tight and complex. And although he’s a multi-talented chap, he’s not the only one on stage tonight. The bass player is brilliant and it looks like his body is reacting to every part of the compelling grooves he’s pounding out so thrillingly. His keyboard player, Tom Rogerson is a virtuoso of the keys, and his contribution is every bit as exciting. He was actually the first act on the bill, with his band, but a combination of slow-cooking chicken and an over-officious bouncer meant we missed all but the last few bars of his set.

Jeremy is as excellent as I hoped. He showcases his debut album Art of Fiction, and manages to squeeze in a couple of new ones - one of them played towards the end is particularly good. You just can't pigeonhole Warmsley. One track is acoustic, the next is fast and rocking, the one after a piano ballad. He brings in the pounding bass on some, not on others. There's a spare drum kit that the bass player hits for extra percussion on a couple of numbers. And Jeremy drags Emmy the Great on stage to sing a lovely duet on I Believe in the Way You Move. There's just so much to keep track of and so much to be impressed by. New single Dirty Blue Jeans is energetic and urgent. The stripped down 5 Verses sounds fine in its new clothes. Modern Children just soars (only to be marred at the end by a slightly unsuccessful attempt at an audience singalong). And the encore, a version of I Knew That Her Face Was A Lie with Tom Rogerson and Jeremy sharing a keyboard is nothing short of spine tinglingly sublime. The boy's magnificent. And unique. He's probably the closest thing we've got to a British Sufjan Stevens. Hopefully his time will come.

Download: Absentee - We Should Never Have Children
Download: Absentee - There's a Body in a Car Somewhere
Download: Jeremy Warmsley - I Knew That His Face Was a Lie
Download: Jeremy Warmsley - I Promise

Buy The Art of Fiction AND Schmotime (really, you should)

Have a look at my pictures of the gig at my Flickr photostream.

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