This Friday is a big day, not just for Manchester music, but for UK music in general.

They're BACK!!! Tha mutha-fuckin' LONGCUT!

They're BACK!!! Tha mutha-fuckin' LONGCUT!

The Longcut – one of this city’s finest bands – make their much-anticipated return to live duty with a show at The Deaf Institute, ahead of a second album that proves they’re here for the long haul.

Expansive, intelligent, potent and urgent, Open Hearts will delight exisiting fans and convert swathes of the uninitiated to The Longcut’s cause.

Open Hearts is an incredibly natural-sounding, confident recording, which demonstrates the strides the band have made since the release of debut album A Call and Response in 2006.

By turns searing, forbidding, meditative and reflective, its beautifully poised, occasionally ferocious sound is an inviting backdrop for lead vocallist and drummer Stuart Ogilvie.

Ogilvie’s voice has always split opinion. Fans love him for his impassioned, yearning delivery and candid, emotionally forthright lyrics, whereas others remain totally immune to his style, citing a limited vocal range.

The singer himself is aware of this.

“I’ve started to sing a lot more on this album, really trying to use the full range of my voice on a lot of the songs”, he explains.

“I think a few people are going to be a bit surprised.”

Whatever your opinion, it’s undeniable that Ogilvie has an instantly recognisable, easily mimicable tone, in the same way that Bob Dylan does.  And even his detractors will be unable to deny that Open Hearts shows Ogilvie to have developed exponentially since the last Longcut record.

His Bobness - Has his detractors

His Bobness - Has his detractors

Since A Call And Response, he has added more subtlety and variety to his core approach – the unmistakable, signature yowl that elevated the fearsome instrumental churn of early singles ‘Transition’ and ‘A Quiet Life’, songs which match anything produced in Manchester this decade for soul-stirring, anthemic fire.

It’s those mercurial, thunderous songs that never fail to incite their loyal hometown crowd, who never fail to see a local Longcut performance as an excuse to kick off in style.  So the group’s long-awaited return to live action at The Deaf Institute – itself developing a fine reputation as a live music venue – promises to make for a sensational night.

“We miss the madness and the adrenaline so much when we haven’t played in ages. We’re planning a pretty full-on set”, promises Ogilvie.

And why not, when their fans turn the floor into a writhing mass of sweaty excess every time they hit full speed?

“It’s just a shame we can’t get in there with the fans and properly experience it”, laughs Ogilvie.  “It looks like fun in there!”

Not that anyone should believe that The Longcut are simply a high-energy live act, intent on giving the kids what they want.

The lyrics to ‘Something Inside’, say, detail the aftermath of the hedonistic impulse, whilst its brooding bassline stalks the wired, distressed vocal.  Then the album’s title track features a tender vocal delivery and patient, unimpulsive, slowburn build.

Then there’s the superb, tech-pop swirler ‘Repeated’.  This stand-out track builds on the template of the underrated ‘Tried and Tested Method’, from A Call and Response – and when its chorus resolves itself into a moment of logical, inevitable glory, you’re left wondering how something so complex can sound so organic.

A Call and Response - top debut, topped.

A Call and Response - top debut, topped.

Simply put, it’s the human touch that Ogilvie’s, well, open-hearted delivery adds to the stern, almost Teutonic efficiency of the musical machine manned by bassist Jon Fearon and guitarist Lee Gale.

They’re a thinking man’s band, who use their brains first and hit the overdrive pedal second – and when it matters.

Perhaps fittingly for a group whose new record affirms their unique, groundbreaking sound, The Longcut have even handled the release of Open Hearts in a distinctive way.

The album is now available for pre-order, but fans who reserve it will be permitted to download the mp3 or FLAC files instantly, before receiving their CD or vinyl copy when it comes out on Melodic Records in October.

The reasoning behind this is linked to a major problem faced by bands in the internet age – the issue of advance ‘promo’ copies of albums being leaked onto the web, meaning that new records by high-profile bands are routinely heard by digitally savvy fans far in advance of official release date.

“Our biggest concern was people getting hold of a poor quality version of the record before it even came out”, explains Ogilvie.

“This way, we know that everybody listening to it, whether pirated or not, is going to be hearing it as it should be heard.”

“Almost every album that’s released now is out unofficially on torrent sites two months or so before it’s in the shops, so we’re allowing people to get a high quality version from us instead”, adds bassist Jon Fearon.

Are the band upset to think that Open Hearts – painstakingly compiled with production help from close friend David Jones, of Nine Black Alps – will be accessible to online pirates for free?

“It’s a problem you can’t solve without overhauling and limiting the internet, which isn’t going to happen,” considers Fearon.

“You have to be realistic that not everyone who likes you will buy the record, but personally, I feel a bit guilty if I’m constantly listening to a band that I’ve not supported in any way.”

“Worse piracy has happened at sea”, shrugs Ogilvie – but it’s a knotty problem and one that does impact upon the chances for artists, especially independently-releasing ones, to make a living from their music.

Piracy - "it's wrong... It's wrong!"

Piracy - "it's wrong... It's wrong!"

“Bands will always need investment from somewhere, so if there’s no money from records, they’ll have to sign away something else to get the cash that labels used to provide”, says Fearon.

“I do think bands should try and do things themselves and keep control as much as possible though.”

This last statement is not just rhetoric.

By recording Open Hearts independently, The Longcut have given the lie to the apathetic convention that bands can’t do anything without the help of major labels and a huge budget.

Parting company with their previous label, Sony, only seems to have galvanised and liberated the group as a creative force.  Such heavy blows have crushed many a promising British band, but The Longcut are made from steelier stuff than most.

As the oddly-titled, but scenic and impressive piano-led study ‘Boom’ prettily burbles from my speakers, I think about the hard graft that has gone into the making of Open Hearts – not just the recording process, but the construction of each song.

The sleek lines and watertight integrity of each structure leave me in mind of a monstruous, beautiful ocean liner, carving an inexorable path through difficult waters.

“I think we’ve become a lot more tight as a band.  There’s a few tricks on Open Hearts that we couldn’t have pulled a few years ago”, decides Ogilvie.

"We've become tighter as a band"

"We've become tighter as a band"

“I think on Call and Response, everything was just so intense that it could get a bit much at times. This album is much better balanced.”

Meanwhile, the very title of this album reflects the songs’ lyrical candour perfectly.

“I’ve tried to rely a lot less on metaphor to express my feelings on this album and I think that’s brought out an honesty and an emotional core to the lyrics”, says Ogilvie.

“There were times when I had to stop and question whether some of the words I was writing seemed too obvious or clichéd, but then I could never think of a better or clearer way to express them.  I hope that makes it easier for people to relate or connect to the songs on the album.”

The Longcut play The Deaf Institute on Friday June 12th, with support from Kingtree & The Roots.

‘Open Hearts’ is available to preorder on CD or vinyl from http://thelongcut.melodic.co.uk, with the digital download issued immediately.

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Kingtree & The Roots

May 30, 2009

A new band is born.

band

The Roots live at the Tiger Lounge, Manchester (L-R Phil Arnold, Tom Mills, me, Trevor Pattinson - Seamus O'Kane (drums) out of shot

Kingtree (Trev and me) live at Upperspace, Manchester.  We usually play a couple together before the rest of the band come on.  This was a duo set, though.

Kingtree (Trev and me) live at Upperspace, Manchester. We usually play a couple together before the rest of the band come on. This was a duo set, though.

http://www.myspace.com/gianttree

There is a video excerpt from our debut show here:

http://thesilverwoodshop.blogspot.com/

We’re the third band in.

Tom Mills is first – he played some organ on the new Nightjars album.  Which I think will be done soon.