Gig Review – Shearwater/David Thomas Broughton

Shearwater/David Thomas Broughton – Captain’s Rest, Glasgow, February 23

It was a bit of a blogger’s convention, almost. Fresh from Mother India’s Cafe, Mrs. 17 Seconds and I were barely in the door of the Captain’s Rest, before we bumped into Jim AKA the Vinyl Villain and Comrade Colin, who used to write the very much missed And Before the First Kiss. They also introduced me to Lisa Marie from Last Year’s Girl, so this was very much the place to be last night.

I love the Captain’s Rest, being as it is so small and intimate that it makes Sleazy’s look like the Barras. It might be snowing in Scotland today (just for a change), but downstairs at TCR it was like being in a sauna. You can literally see the white’s of the performers’ eyes, and as the night wore in, the moisture on their heads.. And performer is what I would describe David Thomas Broughton as. Whilst he has some interesting ideas, it became like an endurance test far too quickly. Mrs. 17 Seconds remarked that it was ‘like watching someone else’s nervous breakdown.’ She’s a very perceptive lass, my wife.

As is her comment about Shearwater: that they are the missing link between The Doors and Antony and the Johnsons (which is more spot on than my previous thoughts about them being the missing link between Nick Drake and Muse). They mix the psychedelia of the former with the melancholic beauty of the latter. The freshly released The Golden Archipelago pciks up just where its’ predecessor Rook left off. Already it is clear it will be vying with the Unwinding Hours for album of the year and leaving the likes of Vampire Weekend standing. Jonathan Meiburg’s voice is as strong live as on record, if not more so, and the time he has spent as an Ornithologist has clearly added something distinct to the band’s work.According to Comrade Colin, the band have covered Talk talk’s ‘the Rainbow (from the pretty damn peerless The Sprit Of Eden album) live, and it just makes sense on so many levels. Songs like ‘Black Eyes’ ‘Castaways’ and ‘Meridian’ sound phenomenal live, though the biggest cheer of the night is for ‘Rooks.’

The band look like they’re having great fun on stage, and the drummer whose name -most appropriately, I might add – is Thor, also plays a mean clarinet. Bassist Kimberley Burke plays string and bass guitar and watching her and Thor interract while they both tackle the xylophones is a treat to behold.With every single one of them swapping instruments, it’s a joy to watch them interract as much as to listen to them. See them live on this tour if you get the chance. I wish I could see them again soon…

Shearwater -‘Black eyes.’ mp3

Shearwater -‘Castaways.’ mp3

Shearwater -‘Rooks.’ mp3

David Thomas Broughton myspace/Shearwater myspace

Album Review – Shearwater


Shearwater – ‘The Golden Archipelago’ (Matador)

The Golden Archipelago is the third in a series that began with Palo Santo and continued with the excellent Rook in 2008, looking at themes of the environment and humans’ impact on nature. Songwriter Jonathan Meiburg – he of a voice that holds its’ own with the likes of Jeff Buckley – has camped in many places as a researcher, and this impacts on not just lyrical themes but also on the album’s sound. Opening track ‘Meridian’ starts of with the strain of the Bikini Atoll anthem, sung by Bikinians in exile after nuclear tests left their island uninhabitable.

As always, there are those who will find the idea of such things being used on a rock record contemptible, pretentious and that this makes Meiburg another one of the Bono/Chris Martin ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ school.That’s their loss. Like its’ predecessor, this is an album that begs for repeated playing. It’s quite sad in tone -definitely more an autumn/winter record than a summer one, but none the less for that. It’s also quite a pastoral record, think John Foxx’s The Garden, Pink Floyd circa Ummagumma/Atom Heart Mother/Meddle, or even Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure.

While it’s perhaps not as immediate as Rook, it certainly holds its’ own up against its’ successor, particularly when heading into the second play of the day alone (as I am). Also, in this day and age of cherry-picking, whilst there are certain standout tracks -‘Black Eyes’ ‘Castaways’ and ‘An Insular Life’ it isn’t an album that you will want just a few tracks by; it’s almost iPod proof, you will want to hear and listen to this album in its’ entirety.

One of the best albums so far this year.


Shearwater -‘Castaways.’ mp3

Shearwater -‘Black Eyes.’ mp3

And because it is so good, Rooks from Rook:

Shearwater -‘Rooks.’ mp3

Shearwater’s website/Shearwater’s myspace

The Golden Archipelago is released on February 15 on Matador.

Album Review: Shearwater

Shearwater -‘Rook’ (Matador)

Oh, wow. I was expecting something good, given the acclaim, chinese whispers and the fact that it’s on Matador but not …this.

I want to this to be a considered, thoughful review and to try and keep me excitement under control. But the reality is that I think this is one of the albums of the year. I’ve reviewed many of the sixty plus albums I’ve heard this year, and this really is up there with the best of the best (thank you, Top Gun).

Jonathan Meiburg’s voice is the first thing that gets you. Think Antony Hegarty, Baby Dee, Jeff Buckley. That good. And then there’s the instrumentation. What’s impressive about this album is that there’s aspects here that could appeal to Muse fans, but there’s enough wondrous delight and experimentation that The Wire should be covering this band too.

It surprises you too – ‘Century Eyes’ remins me of Richard Thompson, but then I wouldn’t want to pigeonhole this all under folk-rock. (I wouldn’t want to pigeonhole Mr. Thompson either, but you get my drift). It’s almost pastoral, think late Talk Talk (Spirit of Eden), Virginia Astley (From Gardens Where We Feel Secure), John Cale’s Paris 1919. Maybe even Cale’s onetime bandmate Nico’s Desertshore, without being so dark or parts of latter-day Radiohead.

Could this be a commercial breakthrough for the band? Oh, who knows. This record is too good to be kept a secret, and whether the general public pick up on it, only time will tell. Amazingly, it’s only 35 minutes long, and not the sprawling release some might imagine.

But buy yourself a copy. This is a record you will want to live with and savour for a very long time.


Shearwater -‘Rooks.’ mp3

Shearwater website/Shearwater MySpace