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…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead / Clinic / The Faint / British Sea Power Astoria, 7th February 2002

Yeeaahh! Trail of Dead are back! Kitten's been holding her breath waiting for Conrad et al to sandblast her ears and thrill her soul for a whole year. In fact, ever since the band kindly gave away their drumkit at the increasingly corporate NME Brats shindig, where now, once again, we find ourselves assailed by giant Carling and MTV banners. (TOD's Reading Festival appearance doesn't really count 'cos it was in the open air, it was daylight and they were sober). Oh the anticipation! Quite frankly, Kitten is ready to explode.

So, doors open at 6:30pm, we hurry through at 6:50pm, pausing only for security to rummage in our handbags, only to find British Sea Power have been and gorn. Damn, quite fancied seeing their 'spooky rustic' stage set and starey eyes again. Why can't these things start at a decent time? Some of us have got jobs and stuff you know, we don't just spend the day milling around Charing Cross Road waiting for the Astoria to open it's mighty doors (actually the doors are open all day for the box office, but whatever).

Fortifying our distraught selves with cans from the 'Keith Moon bar' (celeb count: Steve Lamacq…doh!) we go to check out The Faint. Cripes, it's like the 90's never happened, although I don't remember the first Duran Duran album being this heavy. There are juddery keyboards and spanky drum sounds. There's a bloke on keyboards looking cool 'neath an afro (hey, it can happen). At the beginning he does a po-faced chanting intro, stage-centre, all shadowy and backlit. The singer shimmies about like Simon Le Bon gone goth (shudder) whilst a stick thin, black clad guitarist, face blotted out by a fantastic mop of heavy curtainy hair constantly wiggles around, dancing like that uncoordinated bloke out of OMD (true fact). It is 1981. We are in Sheffield. Kitten used to like Heaven 17 when she was at school you know. Hang on, now it sounds exactly like Visage. This is all quite amusing; we smile wryly. It goes on a bit; we lose interest and inspect the lighting rig.
fantastic mop
Kitten first saw Clinic supporting Super Furries a few years ago and was then mightily thrilled by their itchy, droney dispassionate sound. And surgeons' outfits. Tonight they're dressed as Pearly Kings, although some geezer in the audience chooses to believe they're in Morris Dancer garb. Kids today, they know nothing of this country's illustrious history of traditional dress. The music is darkly buzzing and humming, like a derelict building where someone's forgotten to shut off the electricity supply. Something's missing though, the circuitry isn't quite connecting. Kitten remains un-thrilled and pays a visit upstairs to Keith Moon, celeb count: er blokes who regularly drink at ace pub The Windmill and have become known to Kitten as 'Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds'. Hang on, 'Nick Cave' has been known to sport a Clinic tee-shirt in his time, what's he doing up here?
By the time Kitten gets back downstairs, Clinic are finishing, and it is therefore time to edge closer to the stage. Trail Of Dead! Trail Of Dead! Okay, Kitten is probably unable to cast a detached, coolly critical eye over proceedings, but they sound amazing. Last years stumbling and fiddling and major technical faults are gone. You can recognise the songs immediately; there are no fidgety, twiddling, rambling bits in between, although admittedly these can be part of TOD's charm.
stumbling and fiddling
The opening three songs comprise a veritable greatest hits package; 'Richter Scale Madness', 'Mark David Chapman' and an invigorating crowd holler-along to 'Mistakes and Regrets'. Kitten is squished up towards the front, eyes shining, yelling, 'If I could make a list. Of my mistakes and regrets. I'd put your name on top. And every line after it.'
Songs are thundered through with little of the onstage ranting banter we have come to know and love. Conrad, resplendent in 'Dumb American' tee-shirt, tells us the next song is going to be filmed so we should hurry into the toilets to 'powder ourselves'. Jason's guitar gives up the ghost early on and is dispatched into the crowd, prompting an unseemly tug of war right under Kitten's nose. We get a perfect mix of songs from all three albums, four from the new one, including 'Another Morning Stoner' which was first stumbled through as a brand new song this time last year. It's gorgeous, as is the ringing 'Relative Ways' during the middle eight of which Kitten almost has an out of body experience such is it's greatness. There's Neil's straight-ahead rock of 'Baudelaire' and the scarifying thrash of Jason's 'Homage'. Sadly, there's no 'It Was There That I Saw You', but maybe a Kitten can have too much of a good thing.
dumb american
They finish by rushing headlong into a frantic rendition of 'A Perfect Teenhood' followed by some minor equipment demolition. It's all been mightily professional and Kitten does rather like the odd touch of shambolics, but with the songs stormingly speaking for themselves like this, who's complaining?
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