15 January 2004
Into My Blood
Let It Fall
Review by David Adair & Katherine Tomlinson
Barfly was an apt name for the opening band tonight as 505 of the growing crowd lingered with an arm on the bar like Les Battersby or stayed close to it, as the sprightly Suede meets Supergrass style indie rockers swept through a pleasing set. The geology influenced track 'Searching For The Sun' managed to woo the audience into a bit of toe tapping. However, pleas from the front man that the area around the stage was " not toxic" went unheeded.
My psychic skills told me that the majjority of the 150 or so crowd were thinking "are Toni & Guy having a January sale?" As The Cooper Temple Clause lookalikes The Honeymoon Machine strolled on to the stage and produced keyboard influenced indie that is a mixture between the aformentioned band and The Libertines. However, the audience judged them on their music rather than their looks and gave The Barfly a far better reception.
Wolverhampton songstress Carina Round graced Manchester tonight for part of her current UK tour to promote new self-funded album "The Disconnected." The gathered audience was thanked for digging to find this artists work, and for nicely filling the venue.
A modest Carina ventured out onto the stage coyly stating "There's so many of you," which gained an appreciative smile from the crowd gathered in the intimate venue. Dressed in a conservative but classy black suit, she appeared as modest as her opening songs "Shoot" and "Motel 74" which both struck the mood with the audience.
Carina flitted from acoustic to electric guitar and back again as though indecisive like a child in a sweet shop, and equally familiar "Into My Blood" showed just what she can do on vocals. Her unpredictable style is one part soft mellow vocals, lulling you into a sense of security, and another part ear piercing screams and tuneful expressions of anger, as though swapping the singer on stage. Her musicians (double bassist, guitarist, and drummer) all just carry on as though this is a normal occurrence and are not deterred.
"Elegy" and "Let It Fall" were charismatic performances, indicating the night was coming to a close, with Carina swishing off stage confidently as though she herself owned it, to positive applause and cheers from the crowd, who continued the appreciation, whilst wishing for more.
Originally online at www.contactmusic.com
Since the release of her debut album, The First Blood Mystery, in 2001, Carina Round has been portrayed as a tortured, banshee-like little soul liable to wreak havoc with the sensitive imaginations of rocks more meditative vendees. Its an image that could have something to do with her ongoing comparison to other artists (principally PJ Harvey and Patti Smith) who have had the same effect. It could also have quite a lot to do with that first LP itself, which, however makeshift in places, nevertheless disclosed the fiery, seductive inturning of a minds eye on someone who was, to say the least, a bit pissed off. Either way, believe what you read and its all about to change. With album number two, Carinas allegedly out to wipe the slate clean with a record she claims presents her in a calmer, more upbeat frame of mind. And the news from the front is that so far, shes not doing a very good job.
For a start, theres the album in question; The Disconnection, which came out last year. According to Carina the very title shows how positive shes become, separating herself from all the pain, anger and confusion that was troubling her before. A perfunctory listen, on the other hand, reveals another venomous temptress of an LP that covers such cheerful, playtime lyrical content as broken hearts and razorblades and blackened consciences. By the time you reach the admission in her forthcoming single, Lacuna, that there remain manifold reasons to get fucked up, one cant help feeling Carinas assertions that shes perked up are wearing a little thin. If she has now harnessed those inner demons that once so possessed her, all to the good. But as references to the passing of fire into my blood on her last single suggest, thats hardly stopped her sounding like she still has them flowing through her veins.
Tonight, much of Carinas music exudes the vicious, predatory allure of one who is still favoured with precisely such succubous flair. Shoot and Into My Blood begin kept on a ravenous simmer, taut and trembling and waiting to burst at the bidding of her implicated vocal armoury. When she does let them spin, its into jagged gyrations and mangled sanguine shards of sound. To form, the lusty, carnivorous feel in both should perpetuate comparisons to PJ Harvey midst prime Rid Of Me-period epileptic. But Rounds voice itself can also just as often be a wavering, pale flame that takes its cue as much from the likes of Joni Mitchell. And her art resides in her ability to bite and suck on that, brace herself against it, or alternately let it rip.
So much, then, for the reformed, upbeat Ms. Round. Then again, maybe not. While her music festers with malevolence, Carina herself looks a whole lot less raptorial in the flesh. References to her beauty remain something of a flattering exaggeration for one thing you doubt she particularly gives a fuck. Nevertheless, from the moment she arrives on stage, she meets her audience both with an attractive smile, and a candid, well-fathomed stare that only glasses over as each song reaches its serrated peak. If not beautiful, she is undeniably sexy. And whats more, she has the alive and resourceful gait of a woman who knows exactly that.
Carinas looks do not quell the sonic bloodletting alone. Between songs which at their zenith often foam at the mouth with passion and potency, she chats in demure, intimate whispers, or jokes and giggles with half-recognised faces in the crowd. Next to the more fervent aspects of her performance, it can be like watching Jekyll performing with Hyde and several of his friends.
Duly, as time passes it appears that if there is one thing that does define Ms Round, it is her perpetual ability to defy and confound any presuppositions we might hold. Gradually, she tonight divulges versions of The Disconnections more pacific or brooding phases that, while at odds with their recorded counterparts, are just as intoxicating. The wiry, jazz-inspired intermittence that runs through Lacuna is articulated, lending the song a deft brittleness that tarnishes the lime-white weightlessness of the music. But Carina, it seems, is just at home with that, her voice picking at and savouring the spalted friability, reaching for its extremities with distended enunciations. Its nevertheless almost cringe-making when her band starts to threaten a fleshed out Elegy, as its the sparsely drawn acoustic teardrops and murled poetry of the original that make it perhaps the new records most subtle shock, and its most poignant sting to the eye. Again, though, the risk-taking justifies itself; loosing and freshening the song, building it to that trademark serratic climax from which its words fly like an unleashed proclamation.
Perhaps she is, as she says, more contented, less consumed. Be that as it may, to write off Carina Rounds advance from the exordial fire that first compelled us to pay her heed as the mark of ease or fulfilment would be to simplify matters to the point of lying completely. The truth is, where she once brimmed with potential, she is becoming expert with the tangled intricacies of a talent that has yet to stop moving. As a result, Round has begun to effulge the supple, lissome ingenuity of a writer whose every song is a probing relationship of the most intense kind. The kind, in fact, that her expanding fanbase are beginning to feel they have with her.
Originally online at www.manchestermusic.co.uk