Manchester – Hilton Hotel
29th March 2013
The Gramotones are clearly influenced by 1960’s icons including The Beatles but when they checked into the Hilton Hotel last week it was for a gig not to stay in bed for a week. Fergal Kinney enjoyed the show.
As temperatures plummet to unexpected and unwelcome depths, a small crowd huddle shivering outside a pub just off Deansgate; the first to snap up tickets for tonight’s acoustic Gramotones appearance – the details of which were kept veiled until about an hour before stage time. Those of the frozen crowd expecting the familiar habitats of dingy cellar bars and cramped clubs find themselves pleasantly surprised in the announcement that tonight’s proceedings will take place on floor 39 of the Hilton Hotel. In their short life span, the Gramotones have already built up an impressive local following from tireless gigging around the North West. Their sound is distinctly uncontemporary, steeped in the music of the 1960’s and the years that bookended the crucial decade.
Vocalist Jake Fletcher has much of the nasal croon of a young John Lennon, though lacking is the venom and bite that made Lennon such a compelling force. Indeed, this Beatles debt is paid through a note perfect rendition of ‘Because’ amalgamating without seam into ‘In My Life’ – for a band with youth on their side the vocal power and commitment to harmony is startling. Simon and Garfunkel are evoked in the right way, and the band clearly has a great affinity for their shared unspoken 60’s reference points. Think early Coral but with less of the sea shanty madness and Beefheart psychedelia – though perhaps this is the Gramotones main stumbling block. Music so knowingly indebted to a certain heritage must exude some level of originality or subversion, and whilst the Gramotones have very strong material there’s an edge over their contemporaries that may just be missing.
That isn’t to downplay the quality of their songwriting however, stylophone led kitchen sink portrait ‘Marjorie’ is requested by the audience from the moment the band take to the stage and ‘M62′ is as inspired as it is uniquely evocative. These two songs alone are indications in themselves of a maturity and craftsmanship that might just muscle the Gramotones forward amidst a growing shift in interest towards their template. The rapture with which Jake Bugg has been received over the last year has certainly proved there to be a large public appetite at the moment for an earthier, certified organic retreat to pre Beatles rock’n’roll and late 60’s West Coast folk – but what separates the wheat from the chaff of lazier imitations is great song writing and something of an edge. Anyone can chase a sound, an image, a certain nostalgia but to offer something original and with propensity to connect is a wholly separate fight, and the Gramotones show signs of staying in the ring.
All words by Fergal Kinney. More work by Fergal Kinney on Louder Than War can be found here.