Monday, July 23, 2007

Bandwagon, Esq.

Life Without Buildings: Sorrow

Is there room on board for one more late convert to Life Without Buildings? (It's a band, not a way of life.) Life Without Buildings was a quartet of art school students who formed in Glasgow and released one overlooked album before breaking up five years ago. This year, one of the band's last live shows (performed in Sydney) was released on CD on the Gargleblast label in Europe, and will be issued domestically by Absolutely Kosher in August. Live at the Annandale Hotel is also available on eMusic, and I highly recommend it. You can also purchase the band's studio album, Any Other City, from Absolutely Kosher.

The most extraordinary aspect of the band was certainly its singer, Sue Tompkins. She performs in a combination of speaking and singing, which may not sound appealing to those who are not fans of the Fall or the Hold Steady. But rather than the arch attitude, cryptic references and emotional distance of Mark E. Smith, Tompkins sounds giddy with enthusiasm. Her joy and excitement are both palpable and contagious in the live versions of the songs, and in Tompkins' charming between-song chats with her audience, where she seems intent on demystifying the artifices of live performance, from the set list to the encore.

As I listened to Live at the Annandale Hotel, I realized that Tompkins' lyrical style is more influenced by Gertrude Stein (in its use of repetition, alliteration and homonyms) than the writers favored by Mark E. Smith (who include the gothic horror of Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, the drug-fueled paranoia of Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson, and Russian authors of the 19th century, like Gogol and Dostoevsky). Since Life Without Buildings disbanded, Tompkins has continued solo vocal performances (some of which can be seen on her blog), but her audience now consists of art aficionados rather than rock fans. The song I chose to share today is a ballad. The majority of the songs that Life Without Buildings performed in their Sydney show were more upbeat, but "Sorrow" is a fine demonstration of Tompkins' unique style. You can listen to more songs from the live album here.


At 7/23/2007 3:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to be tripping over LWB a lot at the moment so will have to give 'Live' a chance.

Have you heard Gargleblast labelmates, De Rosa and Desert Hearts Jon?


At 7/23/2007 6:16 PM , Blogger jonderneathica said...

Not yet. I was looking at the Gargleblast roster on eMusic and wondering which of the bands to check out. What do you recommend?

At 7/24/2007 3:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm far more familiar with de Rosa having only the other day got the 2nd Desert Hearts LP. DH are probably the rockier proposition of the two but they've both got Myspaces (surprise) so you can always try before you buy.

I think I might still have a non LP De Rosa track on the blog for a few days - a couple of the DH MP3s are definitely still up.


At 7/30/2007 1:38 PM , Blogger jonderneathica said...

"Sea Punk" by Desert Hearts is a great song. Thanks for the heads up, Mike!

At 8/19/2007 5:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry it's taken so long to follow this up Jon. Seapunk is good, isn't it? It's certainly one of the best tracks on the LP but now being more familiar with the whole thing I would recommend it.



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