LISTENER. Links Hotel, Fleet. 29.08.11

Listener are incredible. So good that the US duo had to invent a whole new genre just to try and describe the marvellous music they make. If you’ve heard their latest album- the wonderful ‘Wooden Heart’- any of their further-back back-catalogue, or even frontman Dan Smith’s guest spot on the last Chariot record then you know this. But it turns out all those recordings are rubbish. It turns out the only way to hear this band is to see them live. In the flesh, and in your face see, Listener come alive. Hell, tonight they play in the well-lit side-room of a chain pub in the arse-end of Hampshire and still manage to play the best gig of the year.

‘My Five Year Plan’ makes for as good an introduction to what’s been christened talk music as any- Smith’s gritty almost-rap, almost-rant poetry picking its way through multi-instrumentalist Christin Nelson’s astounding original arrangements while rock, folk, indie, bluegrass and soul fight for the biggest influence. Really though, more important than any genre is the passion, honesty and sincerity present. You can hear all that and more in the hip-hop shimmy of ‘Seatbelt Hands’, the sad happiness/happy sadness of ‘Falling in Love with Glaciers’, and in a new poem, ‘Wrecking Balls Inside Of Us’, read straight from Smith’s notebook. Then ‘You Have Never Lived…’ arrives and mutates into an almost post-rock monster, Smith snarling that unique vocal delivery and banging on the side of one guitar, busy sounding like a thousand guitars, busy rattling windows, big but heartbreakingly beautiful.

By the end there is enough spit and sweat and feedback in the air that you could be at a punk show. But then there are tears too, rolling down faces that are wildly, widely smiling. And the band are smiling too, apparently surprised that anyone at all knows any words at all. They better get used to it though, playing shows like this will inspire that sort of love and loyalty- shows that are completely cathartic without ever being aggressive, shows that hollow you out and fill you up with something good, shows that change lives.

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