Stornoway, We Are The Union
Laura Prior 20/05/2010
The carefully constructed set of old lamps and wooden bedside tables feels more like the set of a gentle, '20s play than of a bunch of hard-livin' rock and roll bastards - but all the better for it! Tonight, on the last night of their tour at London's low-key ULU, Stornoway assert themselves as a very special band, on the cusp of quietly taking 2010 by the scruff and shearing it Highland-via-Oxford style. They also have a backdrop cut-out of an alarmingly-moustached moon with big ocean eyes and a thoughtful expression, which is basically the best way I have of describing Stornoway.
An outrageously obvious highlight to last weekend's otherwise feeble Great Escape festival, it just goes to show sometimes the most genuine Next Big Thing doesn't need the 'buzz' of a 'networking' party, or other such wank, to get into people's hearts and record-collections. They're every bit as Hebridean, and at one with nature and shit as Idlewild have sounded in their own heads for the past five years. This is the new Idlewild! All other Idlewilds should get BACK, because there's a new bunch of Scottish seagull-fanciers on the block - and they're not even from Scotland.
Popular folk in the vein of Mumford and Sons, expect without the pretentious, kick-in-the-ballsable air of poshboys strapping on banjos while driving around in big 4x4s calling each other 'blud' ironically, or the underrated beauty of Hal if they ever get their act together and come back and finish the job they started in 2005, Stornoway combine heart-fondlingly meloncholic harmonies with a startling knack for tone. Knowing when to turn down the twee, folk waifery which gives the word 'folk' the ability to make you sick up your strawberries in one fell splutter of a harmonica, and when to turn the knobs all the way up to...seven-and-a-half. Well, they're still quite a gentle band.
In fact, Stornoway are endearingly unpretentious. Beginning with a spellbinding 'Coldharbour Road', which sounds like diving into a choppy sea, naked, in the middle of December, the warm feeling of suddenly finding new band to love, seemingly coming, completely formed, out of thin air, is never more evident.
Nerdy stage banter about misplacing bhoys they intended to use on stage, and tales of their recent equipment, voice, travel and other miscellaneous woes on this tour adds to the ramshackle air of a band who just want to cut out the nonsense and sing storming, heartfelt odes of rolling down a hill in a plastic orb (see 'Zorbing'). Only the lame, keep-on-trucking whistfulness of 'Fuel Up doesn't peel my potatoes, but then I never was one for extended, coming-of-age metaphors involving cars. Apart from 'Ignition (Remix)', obviously, but then, that's like the unofficial anthem of life.
Expect Stornoway to become fifty times bigger on the upcoming major festival circuit - like one of those bits of foam that grows into a big tyrannasaurus rex in water. Tonight though, in their own conscientious way, they succeed in killing yet a few more people with kindness.