As I think I mentioned in a previous post; Milburn were always, and probably always will be, my favourite band. Unfortunately, due to being pretty young and having Take That fans as best friends, I never got the chance to see them live. Luckily for me, two, arguably just as good, bands have formed from their ashes. Having already seen Tom and Greeny perform with The Backhanded Compliments, it was time to see how Joe’s new project, The Book Club, matched up.
Normally, I’m quite a fan of the Captain’s Rest as a venue; the sound’s always spot on and the decorative fairy lights and lack of a proper stage make for a lovely, cosy atmosphere. Though, as is always the risk with such a small venue, things can get awkward if there isn’t a large enough crowd. Sadly, this is exactly what happened at this gig. There was literally, and this is no exaggeration, round about twenty or so people in attendance. Bizarrely, the support bands (local acts Black Velveteens and The Cairos) seemed to attract a bigger crowd than The Book Club.
Joe took it all in his stride though and greeted the crowd with a jocular “Hello Murrayfield” before commencing with “Justice For The 96”, a song written about the Hillsborough disaster. With it’s haunting lyrics and passionate vocals this proved to be an immediate highlight. It’s honestly hard to believe that The Book Club, in their current form, have been together for scarcely a few months. They performed with such professionalism and tightness that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d been around for years.
It was great to see that the size of the crowd didn’t seem to hamper the band’s performance and they put their all into each song, continuing to joke along with the crowd throughout the gig. With so many bands playing the full “cool” card at the moment, it’s refreshing to see a band that are happy to be themselves and let their music do the talking.
It could be argued that they sound a little bit too Milburn-ish but, in my opinion, that would just be a lazy comparison. Of course Joe’s voice is still the same (and, lets be honest, it's THAT good no one would want it to change) but, lyrics wise especially, there’s a clear change of direction. Gone are the youthful observations and in their place we have stories of recession, references to The Weimar Republic and Karl Marx (nice to see Joe’s incorporating some of his History course into his music!) and subtle digs at student lifestyles.
As well as Justice For The 96, highlights included the fantastic EP track “What Was Said On The Landing” and “Somewhere Near Oxford” which includes perhaps my favourite Book Club lyrics; “and a Smiths’ t-shirt doesn’t make you a poet like a book don’t mean your wise”. But, undoubtedly, the real “wow” moment of the set came with final song and single “Wheelbarrows For Wallets”. It seems to have everything; a brilliant intro which has Joe singing the opening line with no backing instruments, intelligent lyrics and, most impressively, frequent changes in speed and rhythm which keep the song sounding fresh and original.
Overall, the band were faultless. It seems, after much chopping and changing, they have the perfect lineup, with Joe being the charismatic, engaging front man we all know and love and Tom, Pat and Ant backing him up and clearly enjoying every minute of what they’re doing. Part of me (the selfish part clearly) is quite chuffed at getting to see them in such intimate surroundings but it would be an injustice if, next time they come to Scotland, they aren’t at least playing a medium sized venue.
As well as trying to establish themselves as a live act, Joe Carnall and The Book Club have also released an EP which you can find on itunes. Not only this you can get an insight into their life on the road by checking out their (rather hilarious) tour diaries. Finally, check out their video for "Wheelbarrows For Wallets"