It’s been a long four years since their last release, now Aberdeen’s The Xcerts return with their third, and what looks to be their most defining and immediate record to date, There Is Only You. Revisiting both the streamlined power-pop from debut In The Cold Wind We Smile, and an exorcised version of their sophomore release Scatterbrain, a relentless touring schedule has shaped The Xcerts into a leaner, sharper three-piece, ready to (at last) step out from the shadows of their peers. Chorus after infectious chorus and melody after melody, There Is Only You has earned them the right to do just that.
Opening with the morose, string-leaden ‘2.12.12’, any expectations of a slow, delicate introduction to the album are laid to waste with ‘Live Like This’, a dense and crushing statement of intent. This song, much like the rest of There Is Only You, is heavy but never cold – guitarist Murray Macleod’s desire for the lustful and beautiful fuzz of the Smashing Pumpkins seems to have been fully realised.
As the self-proclaimed purveyors of ‘distorted-pop’, this mantle has never sounded more accurate than on the album’s lead singles, ‘Shaking In The Water’ and ‘Pop Song’. I remember hearing the former at a gig in Exeter two years ago, and that chorus line buried itself into my subconscious even then – if these aren’t already live anthems, they soon will be. In fact, just about every song has a lyrical hookworm in there somewhere, you’ll realise it when you’re mumbling a spare line a few days later.
Despite revelling in heartache and love-lost lyrically, a great buoyancy and optimism weaves through the entire album. The sorrow is disguised by the music itself – the feel-good grind of ‘Kids On Drugs’, the twinkle-rock beginnings of ‘I Don’t Care’, the upbeat bounce of ‘Kick It’ – it’s incredible what an egg-shaker and tambourine can do for a record’s mood. Only once are the happy/sad dynamics torn apart, during album-closer and title track ‘There Is Only You’. Starting out as a passionate and sorrowful lament, the album avoids a bitter endnote by reprising the hopefulness found earlier in the record. To take two contrasting parts and splice them together in this way is a profound and beautiful end to a fantastic collection of songs.
With over a decade already behind them, The Xcerts are veterans in their own right, but There Is Only You feels like a turning point – solid ground on which to build a long, impressive future. Any insecurity about their position on the rock music family tree should be a distant memory by now, for There Is Only You will surely be the album that introduces the world to The Xcerts.
The Borderline, London
13th September 2012
I remember the first time I saw The Xcerts. It was a cold and damp late summer night up in Glasgow. Having just moved there, and therefore knowing nothing about the Scottish music scene, I was truly happy and surprised to be watching them play in the crypt of a converted Church. So I set off for Soho, pumped and in an almost euphoric state, to see this trio blast their own brand of distorted punk-rock pop laced music into the faces of Londoners.
The first thing to mention is that the Borderline has never been the biggest venue, but tonight it is rammed, as you walk down the stairs you have to squeeze past people trying to get a view of the stage. On top of this it’s hot as hell, but there’s a real buzz in the air as we all wait for the band to walk on stage. All of a sudden they appear and the music starts.
Now this is the part where I’m suppose to tell you how much I loved the show, and how it was ‘THE BEST GIG EVER!’, but it wasn’t. The sound at the start of the set was shocking, and when I say shocking I mean really crap, as you can hardly hear the guitar or vocals beyond a wall of distortion. Thankfully after about three songs the problems with the P.A. is sorted, however, although the majority of the audience seems to be really loving this play-through of their 2011 Scatterbrain album, I’m not blown away at all. I loved their first album, 2009’s ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’, and I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of ‘Scatterbrain’, but I really thought it would gain a whole new dimension live. It didn’t really have that effect. While you can’t really say it’s a bad album, in my opinion, it’s just not as good as their debut effort.
The crowd are ready enough to sing-along towards the end and the band thank everyone for their enthusiasm. You can really tell it means a lot to them to see an audience who has embraced their music and a gig format such as this completely, but then it’s all over as they round up the set up after about 45 minutes and there’s not a trace of any earlier material, just one older track could have done the job.
You can’t fault the band’s musicianship, they played exactly the same way as the very first time I saw them in Glasgow, but the poor sound at the venue added to the lack of a truly gob-smacking set list made this, very sadly, just another ‘good but not great’ gig.
If you went and were new to the band, then I can appreciate you’re going to disagree entirely, but for anyone who’s seen them play live before this was not the best gig the boys have played.
After a triumphant Reading & Leeds last weekend, the outdoor festival season has pretty much drawn to a close, but fear not, there are plenty of gigs coming up to get your teeth into for those still hungry for more gnarly music. Below is a list of shows that Crossfire recommends over September 2012.
B.DOLAN’s “The Church of Love & Ruin”
1st – MILTON KEYNES, UK – Crauford Arms (B. DOLAN ONLY, EXTENDED SOLO SET), 2nd – BRISTOL, The Croft (B. DOLAN ONLY, EXTENDED SOLO SET), 3rd – LONDON The Jazz Cafe, 4th – LIVERPOOL Kazimier, 5th – BIRMINGHAM HMV Institute, 6th – READING SUB89 (ft. headlining set from SAGE FRANCIS), 7th – BRIGHTON Coalition (ft. headlining set from SAGE FRANCIS)
Rapper B.Dolan presents ‘The Church Of Love & Ruin’. In the words of the man himself expect the following: “Inspired by the ’boutique festival’ scene, “Church” focuses on atmosphere, handpicked artists, and chaotic, inspired moments of surprise throughout the show (i.e. being part of a ‘toilet paper dodgeball’ game with 800 other people). Come & be blessed.”
BLOOD OF THE SPECTRE / DOOMED FROM DAY ONE
11th – BIRMINGHAM Scruffy Murphy’s, 12th – LONDON The New Cross Inn, 13th – SWINDON 12 Bar, 14th – MAIDENHEAD HOBFEST Hobgoblin, 16th – HIGH WYCOMBE Scorpio’s Bar
Pay particular attention to Doomed From Day One on this UK tour. The young band mix everything from The Black Dahlia Murder inspired vocals and riffs to experimental jazz in their unique sound! Out of all the dates, Maidenhead looks like the one, although it doesn’t hit the map too often in musical terms, catching them in this sweaty venue with fine ales on tap seems like an opportunity not to be missed.
16th – BRIGHTON Concorde2 , 17th – NORWICH Waterfront, 18th – BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy 2 19th – READING Sub89, 20th – MANCHESTER Club Academy, 21st – GLASGOW Cathouse, 22nd – DUBLIN The Pint, 23rd – LONDON Underworld
It’d be a challenge to find a tour that is more deadly than the’ Womb to Waste Tour’. The line up consists of headliners Dying Fetus, Job For A Cowboy, Revocation and Cerebral Bore.
28th – LONDON Old Blues Last
Gnarwolves, a sick band, they were awesome at Hevy Fest and their latest release ‘Cru’ is always spinning at Crossfire HQ. This show is free, so there’s no reason not to attend!
18th – LONDON Camden Barfly
The Barfly is renowned for showcasing the best in new talent, with this gig being one of those nights. Her Parents are an exciting indie band born from the ashes of Dananananaykroyd, Stairs to Korea, and Internet Forever.
LA DISPUTE/TITLE FIGHT
20th – LONDON The Garage
If you are luckily enough to have a ticket for this one off show, you don’t need telling how special it will be. If you don’t it may well be worth splashing out on Viagogo or ebay. La Dispute put on a mesmerising live performance and Title Fight’s fast paced pop-punk is second to none. This is going to be amazing.
PIERCE THE VEIL
16 LEEDS Cockpit 2, 17 NEWCASTLE Academy 2, 18 GLASGOW Ivory Blacks, 20 NOTTINGHAM Rock City Basement, 21 LONDON Underworld, 22 BIRMINGHAM Asylum, 23 MANCHESTER Moho Live, 25 SOUTHAMPTON Joiners, 26 CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach, 27 BRISTOL The Fleece, 28 KINGSTON The Peel
Pierce The Veil are a growing phenomenon over the pond and we can’t get enough of their latest album ‘Collide With The Sky’. These shows seem pretty intimate for a band ready to explode into the scene, catch them while you can.
15th – SOUTHSEA Festival, 17th – GUILDFORD The Star, 19th – KINGSTON Bacchus, 20th – SUNDERLAND Bar One, 21st – HARTLEPOOl The Studio, 22nd – BIDEFORD Palladium, 27 SOUTHAMPTON Avondale House, 28th – RAMSGATE Red Arrows Club
The excellent Scholars are touring in support of new single Blinda Data which you can view below.
15th – SOUTHSEA, Various Venues
Bastions, Tall Ships, Polio, Veils, The Social Club, Black Moth, Gnarwolves and many more play this award winning festival that celebrates underground and independent music. Plenty of names on the bill to check out whilst they are still under the radar.
19th – BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds, 20th – MANCHESTER Moho Live, 21st – GLASGOW Captain’s Rest, 22nd – LEEDS Cockpit III, 23ed – SOUTHAMPTON Unit, 24th – BRISTOL Croft, 25th – LONDON Borderline
Melodic punk rock doesn’t get more emotional than The Menzingers, their latest album ‘On The Impossible Past’ is absolutely perfect. Expect songs taken from that release and their large back catalogue of impressive tunes.
WE ARE THE OCEAN/GIANTS
18 – EXETER Cavern, 19 – LONDON Barfly, 20 – LEEDS Cockpit II, 22 – MANCHESTER Deaf Institute, 23 – GLASGOW King Tut’s, 25 – CARLISLE Brickyard, 26 – SHEFFIELD Academy II, 27 – WREXHAM Central Station, 28 – DUBLIN Academy II, 29 – BELFAST Speakeasy
After the controversial departure of vocalist Dan Brown and with a new album up their sleeves it’ll be interesting to see the new look We Are The Ocean perform in front of their own fans. But what’s even more exciting is that skate-punks Giants are opening up the shows. We featured this band latest single ‘Snakes’ earlier in August and are expecting big things to come from them.
17th – LONDON, The Borderline
Origionating from Aberdeen, The Xcerts draw influence from iconic Scottish bands such as Biffy Clyro and Suciperro. At this intimate show the young band will be playing their critically acclaimed album ‘Scatterbrain’ in full.
Dinosaur Pile Up are back with a single and have a brand new video for the track.
My Rock N Roll is one of the first songs frontman Matt Bigland wrote for DPU and will be released on March 14th. The band are also hitting the road with The Xcerts and Japanese Voyeurs as part of the Rock Sound tour, the dates for which are:
17 – Bedford Esquires
18 – Bournemouth Champions
19 – Brighton Audio
20 – Tunbridge Forum
22 – Cambridge Haymakers
23 – Birmingham O2 Academy3
24 – London Relentless Garage
25 – Bristol O2 Academy2
27 – Glasgow King Tuts
28 – Newcastle O2 Academy2
02 – Leeds Cockpit 2
03 – Manchester Roadhouse
04 – York Duchess
05 – Southampton Joiners