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20 January 2004

The Disconnection Tour
Sheffield, The Fez Club

Additional support by Yellow Stripe Nine.
The only appearance of "Waves" on the tour.

Motel 74
Into My Blood
Let It Fall

Review by Gemma Hinchliffe

"The record industry has its head up its arse. So far up that nearly all that's left is debt, Charlotte Church and a nasty smell" quotes Ben Paine in Carrie Brunel's online music journals, and who are we to disagree. Damn right, say I, goddam right; and here tonight, here is the perfect (yet frustrating, exhausting, depressing) glimpse why.

Yellow Stripe Nine open the show with charisma, presence, confidence, and a tidy little set of art-pop songs. A hugely popular Leeds-based band, their set changes so frequently that it's hard to get a grasp of what direction they're really aiming for - but that's the beauty of it. This bunch of songs is so diverse it's like each one is a new character and costume, a new masquerade. Their image may be challenging and confrontational in some aspects, but the songs are clearly fun and catchy enough to balance out any misapprehensions. It's easy to listen to and more importantly, easy to love, and, even more importantly than that, it's easy to dance to.

Second on the bill is the Honeymoon Machine. They play well, it's reasonably tight and the songs are well-constructed, but it's formulaic, dull, working-class faux-honesty, an 'inauthentic authenticity' patented by Bruce Springsteen before he was (then wasn't, then was etc.) cool. Not much more can be said, albeit unkind, about a band who so adamantly refuse to update themselves.

Carina Round arrives on stage with a flourish of black eye paint and sparky presence - only years on the gigging circuit give you this kind of poise. Those years have taken her round the country more times than Franz Ferdinand have had hot dinner-dates, and yet the live show is still so spectacularly electric that it's hard not to want to plug yourself in and party. She has a voice that is, simply, thrilling - more observant critics have cited her the 'female Jeff Buckley', and though that doesn't do her Nina Simone/Siouxsie Sioux-inflected vocal genius justice, it comes close. But it's only now, seven years after she first started performing and touring, three years since her debut album was released, and four panned label-signings later that she is starting to gain the real recognition she deserves. Carina's gigs in Yorkshire this week are populated not only by regulars, friends of the supporting bands and a rare few dedicated fans, but also by dozens of the local music hounds, people who are finally hearing her name through the press and finally seeing her record in the commercial music stores.

Apart from a technical hitch at the very beginning of the set, the set was without flaw. It included two stunningly performed songs from Carina's first album, 'The First Blood Mystery', as well favourites from 'The Disconnection' such as In My Blood, Shoot, Motel 74 and forthcoming single Lacuna. The latter's 'rock-out' middle-section stood out as a high point of the show, as did the harrowing, metallic slide-guitar hook in Motel 74.

It's gratifying to see an artist such as Carina Round finally find her feet in the music industry. As she will adamantly inform you herself, the industry really is in such chaos that getting a foot in the door is hard enough, let alone building up some kind of commercial viability. Although she has finally now been signed to a major record label, the fight she has had to put up to gain ground is not justified, but unbelievable. And all the while bands like the Honeymoon Machine plunder cock-rock's back pages, there is the show-and-tell fascination of Yellow Stripe Nine to be wondered at.

Debt, Charlotte Church, a bad smell - and no imagination.

Originally online at the leedsmusicscene website

Apparently, this NME advert didn't appear until the 24 January 2004 issue