Live Review: Sky Larkin at London Lexington – 17th September 2013

By on Wednesday, 25th September 2013 at 2:00 pm

The sumptuous surroundings of The Lexington in London’s Kings Cross, with its deep claret walls, raised mezzanine and Victorian charm, always seems to yield a civilised affair. Especially when set against the floorboard-ripping antics of Camden’s many boozer/venue crossovers that lay just the other side of the station. And, here again, a diverse crowd of loyal fans and curious new-bloods converged for Sky Larkin’s first London show in 3 years; an intimate airing of their already acclaimed third studio album ‘Motto’, released just a day earlier on Wichita Recordings – “the only label that will bring you a whiskey on stage”. (Read Carrie’s review of ‘Motto’ here.)

Opening with ‘Still Windmills’ from their second album ‘Kaleide’, it was fitting that the first lyrics uttered that night were: “I know there’s potential”. Not only was their live sound a nicely fattened, foie gras extension of the playfully whimsical vocals and multi-level guitar fog of their studio sound, but, as we were soon to find out, their latest material represents an effortless slide into musical maturity. ‘Treasury’, the first offering from their new album, was transformed into a kind of call-and-response meeting of tempos that hadn’t been half as evident on the album. It’s a racy number, dripping with feedback, which climaxes with lead singer and guitarist Katie Harkin wailing at the mic from six inches away to add a new realm of reverb.

Their next track, ‘Loom’, carries the same kind of infectious potential you’re warned about in sex ed classes, with an accompanying video that playfully juxtaposes the sense of frustration through inactivity elicited in the lyrics. Their live interpretation had an air of Giant Drag about it, and for such a streamlined guy, bassist Sam Pryor managed to produce a behemoth bass line more reminiscent of rolling thunder. In so many ways this song sums up Sky Larkin’s approach to music; forgoing the passions of love and hate for an investigation into the nuances of normality.

A flutter of high-hat and snare from drummer Nestor Matthews gave the chorus of their next track, ‘Carve It Out’, a sense of brevity that lifted it above the more conventional indie rhythms that had been on display so far. A busy number with a thousand components, the track showcased the versatility that, in part, is the reason ‘Motto’ is on an upward trajectory. Next up, ‘Bravo Dodo’ was a lesson in how to make a two word chorus imply more than any Meatloaf-like barrage of language; sitting back on the beat, confident in its own majesty.

‘Frozen Summer’, a slow burner centred around just two chords, built progressively into an epic closing section that married interstellar cyclic arpeggios and a lumbering, comedy dinosaur bass line. The interaction between the three present band members during this track gave the biggest indication yet of the kind of rapport that can be cultivated from spending 8 years onstage together (although Sam Pryor only stepped in last year, and guitarist Nile Marr was absent). Between jibes about Sunderland Sam’s “why-aye phone”, and the hilariously cutting query over whether “anyone here was from London”, it could be seen that such comfort suggests that this album, as the lyrics suggest, represents the summer of their own souls.

Harkin got lost somewhere in the stripped-back simplicity of at the start of ‘Newsworthy’, focused squarely on a single spot on the back wall to the extent that you didn’t want to turn round in case you saw a rogue 747 making a beeline from Heathrow. By the end of the track – a standout on the new album – she was beating on her guitar with fervour, a theme that continued (with just a hint of indie irony) into ‘Matador’, from their 2009 debut ‘The Golden Spike’. A well placed cover can tell you so much about a band’s influences and mission statement. And, so it was that the band descended into X-Ray Spex’s ‘The Day the World Turned Day-Glo’; a choice that signifies a move away from bigoted feminine pop archetypes and towards a more tongue-in-cheek, lyrically challenging concoction. Oh bondage, up yours!

One last sojourn into ‘The Golden Spike’ with ‘Summit’ was clearly appreciated by the old faithful and, after a wrangle over whether an encore was worthwhile if you had to walk through the crowd to get out, they decided to plunge straight into their closing number, the title track of their latest album ‘Motto’. Quite a statement for a final track, and likely to be the only song that has had the time to be fully digested by their fans, ‘Motto’ built out of three lonely chords with a bass line reminiscent of the opening of The Doors’ ‘LA Woman’. It is not a similarity that continued, however, and the freedom Katie was able to express through her wandering vocal melodies kept raising that same X-Ray Spex inspired flag. Seemingly somewhat of a satire on the music industry’s promise to deliver “the mottos to mutter” (or, more accurately “the catchphrase of the cash cow”), it was evident by now that Sky Larkin had given everything in an hour-long burst of energy; creating something that no amount of pay advances and larynx insurance could conjure – real world emotion.

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5 Responses

2:03 pm
25th September 2013

New post: Live Review: Sky Larkin @weareskylarkin at London Lexington @thelexington – 17th September 2013:

2:16 pm
25th September 2013

Ben catches Leeds band Sky Larkin @weareskylarkin at London Lexington @thelexington – 17th September 2013:

10:43 pm
26th September 2013

@weareskylarkin blog is live on @tgtf for your delectation: Exclusive Q&A session to follow…

9:41 pm
29th September 2013

Such a good night, and by all accounts they only got better! Caught up with the lovely Katie just before

[…] Whimsical indie rock four-piece Sky Larkin have reinvigorated themselves with a crisp autumnal LP in ‘Motto’ (reviewed by Carrie here), their third studio album out now on Wichita Recordings. Following a 3-year hiatus, a line-up change and what sounds like a subtle shift in perspective, drummer Nestor Matth in to talk us through their latest release after a balmy reunion with fans at London’s Lexington in September. […]

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