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:: Gabrielle's Wish :: The Forest :: The Mountaineers :: Stranger Son ::
04 March 2005 / The BierKeller / Manchester

A rumble of apocalyptic bass introduces Stranger Son Of WB. It’s darker than a goth’s funeral in a blackout, sucking the very light from the room, and then the vocals start. Pissed off? Angry? Just a bit. With what is not always clear. People who work for Manchester City Council pushing paper, January sales and Shepherds Bush Empire just three random targets I can dredge from the various borderline psychotic railings, and yeah, they’d probably all be on my list too. Love the Sonar Yen (RIP) but find them a bit cheerful for you sometimes? Well firstly get some help, but then go and see this, their bastard spawn. Tim plays out of position on guitar, unleashing scythes of blistering noise with a fantastically dead-eyed stare. Frontman Gareth Smith looks ready to attack someone. You want to step back but the wayward spiral of threatening post-punk post-rock sucks you right in. And then… a saxophone? If ever an instrument has been cruelly abused over the years it’s this one, responsible as it has been for some of the worst atrocities ever committed to vinyl. Like… “Baker Street!” shouts some brave soul. Not likely. No, in the hands of Stranger Son even the sax sounds angry, extracting an unhinged revenge for all those soft rock crimes. Later it’s used like a drone on a track that sounds like Suicide crossed with Gang of Four and the inner-city paranoia of “Frightened”-era Fall. A heckler during slight technical problem break is dismissed with a resounding “Fuck off!” before the drum machine springs into life again, the guitar cranks up higher and higher and it all ends in a twisting, ear-splitting noise. Excellent stuff.


To say that The Mountaineers are something of a comedown following The Stranger Son is like saying that Stalin was a bit paranoid. Compared with the frantic, near inscrutable hunger of the previous act this earnest, not really rocking at all, rock band come across as rather understated. With what sounds like a disconcerting mix of The Style Council, The Beach Boys and Dodgy it’s duller than a week in Dunstable and that probably isn’t just by comparison.

Any veteran of Manchester’s underground will have doubtlessly seen The Forest several times. But today The Forest are angrier and (gosh!) squinting at a new direction. And this new diversion that they follow is a whole lot darker, stranger and will have you scratching your scalp and thinking, “Woah! Jonah never sang that note before!” Perhaps the new mangled shape of things to come.

Tonight however belongs to manctronic pioneers Gabrielle’s Wish. Anyone who’s prepared to put them on a pedestal with other local luminaries like Joy Division, Durutti Column, Chameleons etc is more than likely to receive a severe reprimand. How dare you compare! They haven’t been in the Top 20! Even Interpol don’t talk about them!

A backdrop of darting images from local wastelands and street signs partially sets out the manifesto but it’s the sonic counterpart that takes it to a new space. It’s a space that has continuity with what went before it but Gabrielle’s Wish push it further and further. The aesthetics associated with typically mancunian music usually come across as boring and complacent because they provide no new substance. Not here. While Rob Corless groans with the baritone alienation of Ian Curtis it’s the only obvious comparison aboard. They certainly sound like they’re from the wrong part of Manchester but most importantly they seem to have developed in relative isolation. It might be a cliché but you can feel those decaying factory walls closing in like never before as the bass jolts about wildly and the drums pound with the potency and dexterity of John Bonham (apparently Bo Walsh’s middle names). Jagged guitars and extraterrestrial vocals shoot over your head like deadly industrial vapours.

Well bollocks to you and your short-sightedness. In terms of leading the way for innovative, rich music that still sounds distinctly Mancunian, I’ll put my head on the block and say Gabrielle’s Wish belong on that plateau.


Gabrielles Wish
The Forest

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