Published: 13/05/2018 09:00 - Updated: 11/05/2018 11:03

REVIEW: Netsounds present Declan Welsh and the Decadent West (with Emme Woods, LILURA)

Written byKyle Walker

The Ironworks, Inverness

Thursday, May 3

****

Declan Welsh at the Ironworks on Thursday May 3
Declan Welsh brought the night to a raucous close. Picture: Jamie Macdonald

Well, thanks a chuffing lot Inverness.

After I spent last week extolling the city’s appetite for underground musical artists with the Wonk Unit gig, three of Scotland’s brightest young artists played to a group of people to whom the term “crowd” seems like false advertising. A smattering of people. A light shower, perhaps.

Obviously, the difference in venue must be noted – this is the Ironworks after all, a formidable venue to play even with its wonderful new staging option bringing the room size down to a more compact and intimate feel.

But much credit is due to the Ironworks for forging ahead with the gig – in a city where the venues are packed with tribute bands, it’s always good to see fresh talent promoted in the city’s most prominent music venue.

And the 30-40 people who made it out midweek were treated to a snapshot of Scottish music’s fresh hopes.

Nairn’s witch-pop purveyor LILURA has been showing a lot of promise for a long time. Tonight, events were conspiring against her – accompanying her and her backing tracks was a drummer she had only met three hours beforehand.

Anyone would be nervous with circumstances such as that, and it’s to her credit (and the credit of the drummer) that the set – a half-hour filled with a steady current of icy synths and groove-tinged basslines – went ahead at all.

I fear, however, that those nerves may have gotten the best of her – songs like Darkest Desire and Karma fizzled slightly where they should have fizzed, her voice cracking tremulously at the high notes.

It feels like this particular project is still very much a work in progress. The announcement LILURA makes about looking towards being a full live band experience in future is probably a wise move for her music and her live show.

Hopefully, bringing more people on board will provide a little more diversity and variety to her sound and give her something to play off beyond a backing track and a heroically game drummer.  

There’s still a lot of promise and potential there for LILURA’s witch-pop mission to be fulfilled – but if LILURA is an intriguing work in progress, then Emme Woods is the finished article.

The catchy hooks and slight, echoing reverb of 60s guitar-pop filtered through the grime and distortion of 90s garage rock and the howling Brody Dalle-esque vocals – if the Distillers frontwoman had gotten really into the Supremes – all combine so well together into wonderfully distinctive sound.

It helps that she seems so unfettered by performing. As she cracks wise between songs with her bandmates, her dog Bubbles by her side, the whole set glides by with an effortless cool as songs like I’ve Been Running and closer It’s Ma Party fill the venue.

Headliners Declan Welsh and the Decadent West remain one of the most fascinating acts in Scottish music – combining the hookiest and more danceable elements of mid-noughties with the fire and political fury of 80s post-punk.

Following in the footsteps of songwriters like Billy Bragg and the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Declan trucks in songs that so often deal with the minutiae of the matters – whether that’s the heartbreaking specificity of the power ballad-tinged Useless or the cutting, furious swagger of alt-right bashing finisher Nazi Boys.

Watching the sparse yet utterly delighted crowd properly get down as Declan snarls about a “master race of spotty teens” over the sound of pummelling drums and clashing guitar, the thought occurs that with artists like this, Scotland’s music scene is in rude health indeed.

What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker

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