CosyCosy/Eleaven/Diamorphine/Mark Hammond at the Portland Arms 29/1/04

By Holl(i)ly

I usually face opening acoustic acts with a certain amount of trepidation at the prospect of spending the next several minutes being embarrassed by someone's inability to realise that no one wants to hear in rhyming detail about everyone they've ever broken up with, but Mark Hammond's solo spot
came as a pleasant surprise. Strong vocals sung with genuine feeling and power over a guitar line which, rather than just being the background noise to sing the vocals over, was full of musical interest in itself and rather louder and fuller-sounding than you expect one acoustic guitar to be. And fantastically enough there was no noticeable mass audience exit in the direction of the bar, which is a rare thing for any songwriter-type to be
able to claim of his set.

Diamorphine seemed to have a grand time on stage playing their rhythmic, bass heavy sound with a strong element of funk to it, loud and fast under a tuneful holler of a vocal line with echoes of Frank Black in it. In fact, a
large part of the set sounded like a more cohesive Pixies might, if they lost the whoops and hollers and played for a powerful rather than quirky sound. Occasionally a slower song would have echoes of the Chilli Peppers in
it, which is a bad thing as far as I'm concerned since the mere suggestion of a Chillis resemblance usually has me spitting fire and brimstone and heading for the bar. But in this case Diamorphine layered their slower numbers with enough weird, rippling guitar sounds and hissing distortion
effects to hold interest in the songs and salvage them from the Chillis morbid funk-based drone, shaking down several ingredients to create their own very appealing sound.

In what was only their third gig, Eleaven played several cracking pop songs: summery, uplifting numbers with strong tunes and that glorious, glowing sense of uplifting melancholy behind them which is just what you need to
counteract freezing temperatures outside. When they branched off into other genres, however, it didn't work so well - the poppier numbers had an common emotional underpinning to them which gave the set a sense of continuity, and when they strayed from that the sense of band trademark didn't come with them and it made the set feel somewhat fractured and stopped it working as a
whole. But the good moments were Good, and this being onlytheir third gig I await developments with interest.

And finally Cosy Cosy, whose trademark vocal harmonies meant that their acoustic appearance was still very much a Cosy experience. The stripped down nature of their set meant their barbed and bitter-sweet lyrics were more
audible than usual and made the edgy quality that always lurks beneath their all-out full-on-fun façade come across more explicitly. The vocal harmonies are easily strong enough to hold their set together, and acoustically Cosy
Cosy work very well indeed. They should by rights have played to a fuller room, but the audience is rare indeed that will walk through snow and ice to
reach a gig. The wimps.