The Last Battle/Penny Black/Josie Lawrence – Edinburgh Electric Circus, August 9
Stupidly, I missed the first few minutes of tonight’s gig due to the fact that I decided to DRIVE (through Edinburgh, during the festival? I must need certifying!) and my mood was not improved on arriving to discover that Josie Long had already started her set. However she’s so very funny with her observational comedy and quirky outtakes on life (if there’s any other comedian of either sex who name-check Joanna Newsom on stage can someone email me? Thanks), that even this grumpy git warmed up in no time. Yes, she does stuff about periods and yes you can see the funny side if you’re a bloke.
Penny Black are one of those Edinburgh names that I’ve heard bandied about over the last few years but never caught live. With the exception of the guitarist they all look like conscientious barstaff should be IDing them before serving them alcohol, but this four-piece sound very good indeed. At times they sound like they could be described as being blues-rock (no! WAIT!! COME BACK!!!), at other times they manage to evoke both the moody atmosphere of Mogwai and also the Frabbits/Jetpacks/Twilight Sad axis. The drummer may look like Harry Styles, but make no mistake this lass and three boys sound like they’re going places.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen The Last Battle over the last four years. With the release of their sophomore album Lay Your Burden Down earlier this year, the band have evolved fully from the fine Mark 1 Last Battle into the just as fine but very different Mark 2. While their still-special debut Heart Of The Land Soul Of The Sea was born of a lo-fi indie-folk aesthetic, their new album sees the band exploring and finding great satisfaction with more of a folk-rock feel, and one that’s entirely of their own making. (Actually, scratch that, they have evolved into a kick-arse rock band with folk undertones is what I noted down in the darkness of the gig.)You hear it in the way that older songs like ‘Ruins’ and ‘Nature’s Glorious Rage’ are fully realised in an entirely new light. ‘Lifejackets’ is still presented in a stripped down way (the very first song that lead singer Scott Longmuir ever wrote for the band, fact fans), and that’s actually appropriate.
But it’s not just about the old songs, it’s about the way that the new songs sound just as confident alongside them. Album opener ‘None Of That’ and ‘Perfecting The Art (Of Saying Nothing)’ stand particularly strong tonight. Yet it’s the set’s closer of ‘Wherever Our Feet Take Us’ that sounds like a band taking on the world. Sure I wonder how much of the lyrics are autobiographical ‘You got a tattoo/your father didn’t know…you’re just like your father/stubborn as fuck!’ in this song, and that’s probably between the self-styled Scotty Battle and his family. But if you still haven’t checked out The Last Battle on record or live, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice.