Many a drunken texting exchange has ended in shame, with regret or at least mild social embarrassment.
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Some might even end in court. But for former Suede guitarist-turned-ace producer Bernard Butler and 1990s/Yummy Fur frontman Jackie McKeown, their drunken dialogue, deploring much of the music they were hearing around and about, ended up in the formation of a spanking new jam band Trans, a riposte of sorts to the current dire state of the guitar band.
Butler, the somewhat introverted guitar hero of the nascent Britpop era, undoubtedly has the chops for the job, though he has been out of the performing game for a while. His first new band in a decade is intended to be a low-key affair – maybe too low-key, as this gig was not particularly well subscribed by those beyond McKeown’s circle of friends.
The garrulous Glaswegian makes an unlikely foil for the moodier Butler, but their odd couple dynamic has yielded some naturally rocking music.
Together with rhythm section Paul Borchers and Igor Volk, they recorded nine hours of improvised material from which they have so far carved two EPs. Despite the freewheeling approach, with Butler’s and McKeown’s combined pedigree, they cannot help but default to writing pop songs, in this case with punky, glammy overtones.
Surprisingly, Butler supplied most of the lead vocals, revealing effete southern tones with enough snotty attitude to match the thrust of the music.
Unlike McKeown, he is not a natural frontman, but when the pair occasionally sang in unison, the effect was potent and punchy.
Butler, however, appeared more comfortable than McKeown going with the flow during the instrumental portions of each number. Once the lyrics had been dispensed with, he settled into the main event, a succession of extended, unshackled solos with space to improvise.
McKeown tended to follow his lead during these moments, facing Butler onstage, watchful and responsive, so that what could have become a messy, heavygoing indulgence was more of an engaging dialogue, with distinct shades of Television and, thanks to the tight-but-loose groove supplied by Borchers and Volk, The Velvet Underground’s unschooled, distorted jams.
McKeown, a more economical guitarist than Butler, got his moment to shine with a brief but charged solo during Tangerine, which he described impishly as “heavy Krautrock” – the Krautrock actually came along one song later, with rock’n’roll bells on, to round off an absorbing set.
Seen on 13.03.14