I Like Trains
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Just what is it that makes Spanish audiences so appreciative? Regardless of venue or, indeed, who is on the stage before them, they gaze on, awestruck and mute, only breaking their silence to applaud wildly whenever a pause is offered up. Perhaps it's something in the water, or perhaps (and this, given the general absence of chivalry ordinarily displayed over here, seems the more likely theory) they store up all their politeness for occasions such as this, when they deem to bestow it upon musical heroes and unknowns alike, treating them with almost religious reverie.
Whatever the explanation may be, tonight it is the turn of iLiKETRAiNS to be party to this warmest of receptions. On their first live appearance in Spain and, at the start of a fairly extensive European tour to promote debut album Elegies To Lessons Learnt, they tonight grace Madrid's Moby Dick Club. Tiny, with no barrier dividing band and audience, the club is decked out like the innards of a boat (rather than those of a sea monster, as the name might suggest). It's a heady and fairly unique mix of dingy and nautical; a million miles away from most British venues.
iLiKETRAiNS certainly earn the enthusiastic reception which is bestowed upon them tonight. They take to the stage and, as ‘Twenty Five Sins’’ insistent, almost military, drumbeat tears out of the speakers, we get the feeling that we are in for something pretty special. Indeed, from start to finish, they don't disappoint. Their spectacularly tight live performance is a perfect showcase for the many gems embedded in Elegies To Lessons Learnt, with 'Death Of An Idealist' standing out as a particular highlight.
Furthermore, they successfully manage to avoid the all-too-common, no-fun-for-anyone affliction that is post-rock impotence (you know, that sinking feeling you get when it becomes apparent that, for all the heart-wrenching build-up, no climax is forthcoming). With both the new material and the few excerpts from 2006's Progress Reform mini-album, they neatly offset their frequent forays into shoegazery with enough - admittedly feedback- and distortion-laden - rock to render their insistent miserablism nothing short of breathtaking (see: 'The Deception' and 'We Go Hunting').
There is something about this band which is just so gloriously British, making their appearance on foreign soil all the more appealing. Perhaps it stems from singer Dave Martin's cut-glass vowels and almost Pygmalion-esque enunciation. Perhaps it's their brilliantly theatrical approach to lyricism, or the portentous Gothicism which, one suspects, would cause Edgar Allen Poe to chuckle. More likely, though, it's the fact that, like many before them (British Sea Power, above all, spring to mind), they lean heavily on domestic history as a reference point.
Whether projecting the names of plague victims on the wall behind them ('We All Fall Down'), or relaying an open letter to Britain's only ever assassinated Prime Minister ('Spencer Perceval'), they emerge as something altogether more interesting than the cod politics and kitchen-sink romance which is all too common these days.
As they close their set with nine-minute epic and recent single 'Spencer Perceval', the girl next to us seems to be having some sort of epiphany, and we find ourselves being swept along by the tide of her enthusiasm. Based on tonight's performance, her reaction is nothing less than perfectly reasonable.
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