Man Without Country @ The Shacklewell Arms, London, 19/07/2012
From the opening it’s clear that on stage Man without Country are even more powerful than they are on debut album Foe. The addition of a live drummer gives them oomph, fully realising the stadium band they could so easily become. The Shacklewell Arms, being a smallish pub music room, practically vibrates to the massive sound the band produce. A bit of smoke and pink lighting and we’re away. It’s no great stretch of the imagination to see the Brixton Academy morphing around us.
The set largely follows the Foe track list, with only “All Is Full of Love” (a Bjork cover) not from the album. It’s nice enough but, to be honest, their original material is stronger.
Starting with the title track, the trademark soaring pop with rather angry (if cryptic) lyrics is at once arresting. “Puppets” is all white line motorik beats with a lyrical dig at dumb fuck sheep. Although the level of programming means massive deviation from the album is unlikely, the sound is much fuller and makes the tracks even more accessible. By the time the music box intro of “King Complex” kicks into the song proper they are unstoppable, the treacle dream pop made uneasy by subsumed John Carpenter soundtrack like tinkling.
“Ebb and Flow” is insistent; the “whoo hoos” a siren call to lose yourselves in, a smack reverie to escape the mundane reality of a dingy Dalston back room. “Closet Addicts Anonymous” has a languorous, sensual start before off kilter beats of live drumming and bass synth bring a hardness to proceedings, a more downbeat celebration before exploding star synths open the horizon. The soundtrack like “Inflammable Heart” lets us drift away into the night, slowly returning to Earth.
My taste is such that I normally wouldn’t stick my neck out on how mainstream a band could get, but give MWC a bit of daytime radio and mass appeal seems assured. They are smooth enough for the masses and interesting enough for the hipster.