It took me some time to catch up with Elizabeth Bernholz’s alter ego Gazelle Twin in a live setting, what with her lack of home town performance dates, but she was worth every second of the wait. In a knock-out and characteristically unsettling visual spectacle, Bernholz stalked the stage and scanned the audience like some cretaceous avatar, in keeping with the sentiments of her latest album, Pastoral. The album’s message that Britain is a dangerously deluded, hubristic dinosaur comes across loud and clear, as did the brutal, unnerving live beats that provide the backdrop to Bernholz’s perfectly incongruous, almost angelic, soprano vocals. This was a show with more than just one toe in performance art. The Gazelle Twin image is every bit as important as the Gazelle Twin sound, and its latest incarnation, as faceless court jester meets football fan, meets St. George’s flag, meets a certain, highly corporate, ubiquitous soft drink, is as striking as it is disturbing. This is very much art in the context of its time, chewing and spewing the political landscape that it finds itself in. The end result was thrilling, haunting and yet strangely reassuring.
It has been one hell of a year. From the influx of thousands of artists during festival season to watching many of our most-loved Brighton bands bloom into genuine world beaters, 2018 has been an incredibly successful year for music locally. Our Brightonsfinest writers now look back over the past 12 months to remember their highlights on record and in the live sphere as well as the ones we missed.
The former Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne, has just announced a UK tour, that includes a date at the Brighton Centre, 30th October.
It’s been nine years since he last played here, and earlier this year he released his first solo album since 2004, American Utopia, garnering rave reviews across the board. The album was one part of a larger multimedia project entitled Reasons to Be Cheerful, which aims to give reasons for being happy and optimistic in spite of political strife and environmental problems.
Troubled times give rise to great art. This seems to be the general consensus, a truism even, and artists the world over, since time immemorial, have toiled away, tapping the sap of life’s suffering. So it is for David Byrne, after a protracted solo silence. 14 years is a long time to be gone from any scene. The world changes, sometimes beyond recognition. However, David has kept his hand in, in the interim, ticking over nicely with the collaborative approach we’ve come to associate him with, post-Talking Heads (Brian Eno, Norman Cook, St Vincent, Arcade Fire, De La Soul) and now for the rebirth. Just one month later would have made for an Easter release with real resurrection overtones, but this is still a springtime resurgence and a seasonally appropriate burst of optimism to sweep away winter and, sticking with the religious, bring light to the darkness. David is emphatic that the album’s title, American Utopia, is entirely without irony. There is no cynicism – just sincerity, plain and simple. Byrne’s motives are as unadorned as his voice and he is talking, alongside the singing, in a separate, but accompanying, tour of lectures, entitled ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’. We can only surmise what Ian Dury would make of the appropriation.
A particularly anticipated release this year will be the Talking Heads founder and frontman’s American Utopia album, his first solo offering for 14 years, out on March 9th 2018. He continues to expand what looks like a huge worldwide tour by announcing a few British dates this summer.