A few months ago, Brighton four-piece Electrelane went on “indefinite hiatus.” We sniffled. Plan B publisher/SOC weekly columnist Everett True just caught the band’s final hometown send-off. He sniffled. E-mail your sniffles to Everett at firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS WEEK: Farewell to Electrelane
“Do you think people will be in tears by the end?” asked my wife where we were stood, halfway back at the Brighton Pavilion.
Her timing was unfortunate. Verity Susman had just finished performing a totally stunning version of recent single “To The East” with the band she founded back in 1998 with drummer Emma Gaze, the defiantly individual Electrelane – and I was choking back emotion. Her voice sounded so powerful, magnetic – yearning, caught up in the loneliness of imminent separation, throwing out high-pitched notes seemingly unknowing amid the motorik beat, driven organ and resolute guitar.
My mind was flashing back fitfully: wandering sober and suited in the aftermath of 9/11 through Brighton car parks accompanied by four serene female musicians (Electrelane), merry and sea-swept near the carousel on Brighton seafront, utterly charmed by bassist Ros Murray’s previous band, the Marine Girls-referencing Lesbo Pig, arguments caused by guitarist Mia Clarke about music and friendship, the deep dark days upon being informed of my dad’s imminent death and recording several spoken word pieces influenced by same, soundtracked by Susman’s tumbling, wastrel piano (and later, when he died: one of those songs played as his body departed the crematorium), radio shows in tandem with Gaze (and also a first tentative entry back into the live arena)…the fact that Electrelane chanced across my vision (late 2001) the same time photographer Steve Gullick first mooted the idea of the magazine that would become Careless Talk Costs Lives to me – and have now called a halt to their music (“an indefinite hiatus”) just as Plan B enters the most problematic period of its existence…the fact that during the entire period of these two magazines’ existence they supplied a constant to my life’s changing tapestry (and vice versa)…
Why would you give up a name that you’ve struggled so hard to have people recognise? Is pride that important? (Don’t answer. I know the answer.)
And I thought of the previous time I saw Electrelane – just a few short months ago, warming up for what has turned out to be their final tour, at Brighton’s intimate Westhill Community Centre: and there I was driven to feelings of near hatred for Clarke – the way she was playing Marnie Stern-influenced shredding guitar lines that seemed at odds with Electrelane’s subtle pulse, for the way she put me in mind of all those Seventies rock bands where the guitarist existed separate to the songs, in another realm altogether…but tonight, she (no less passionate, no less driven) gelled so much better: her guitar sawed across the top of the amplifier entirely in keeping with the violet mood of the evening. I mean, one doesn’t do subtle for one’s final show, does one?
But of course, Electrelane did. No shouts, no calls. Tour support Anni Rossi came on to add violin to “The Greater Times”, an unheard-of two encores were played, culminating in a splendidly frantic version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”, song choices were mostly split between debut album, 2001’s Rock It To The Moon and this year’s swansong No Shouts, No Calls with pretty much all the singles (“This Deed”, On Parade”, “Film Music”, “Two For Joy”) in between, giving Clarke and Susman plenty of opportunity to indulge their “restrained rocker” fantasies one last time. And typically, the newest member (Murray) took stage centre.
The band came back on after the second encore for the briefest of bows, and to pass a bottle of champagne to fans – and that was it.
Almost imperceptibly, life has become greyer this morning.
Hugs And Kisses Top 5
Everett True’s five favourite Electrelane songs (in no particular order)
1. “The Valleys” (from The Power Out, 2004). As played during countless DJ stints to empty floors and cracked frames – full Welsh choral accompaniment, and all.
2. “On Parade” (from The Power Out, 2004). Magnificently skewed, with a killer guitar line and – wait, is that Verity singing? Whoa. Why didn’t she do that before? To this day, I swear she’s singing, “I want to wear your underwear” in the chorus.
3. “I Want To Be The President” (2003 single). Neu! has rarely sounded as gorgeous as this. Watch your volume control in the middle!
4. “Gone Darker” (from Axes, 2005). This is the centrepiece of their [finest] album, a seven-minute sprawling epic that serves as both travelogue and adventure. From the distant boat sounds and hubbub at the song’s start, through Susman’s squealing saxophone and Mia Clarke’s menacing guitar, the song builds and builds to a crescendo of wordless movement and recrimination, until disintegrating in a chilling denouement. It’s a storming moment. (OK, I quoted from my own review.)
5. “Film Music” (from Rock It To The Moon, 2001)/“I’m On Fire” (B-side of “On Parade,” 2004) Where it all began – and where it all ended.