Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Papa M
Fleece & Firkin, Bristol

Surely it didn’t have to be like this. Dave Pajo and Alan Licht stand alone on stage, slowly picking out the opening notes of ‘I Am Not Lonely With Cricket’, occasionally stooping to fiddle with buzzing guitar leads. The other members of Papa M have left the stage to wait in the crowd until they are required again, but five minutes later nothing has changed, the same four notes are ringing around the room, and Pajo remains stock-still, having not once faced the crowd since coming on stage.

He keeps this pose all night, and you have to stop yourself from shouting at him, just to make sure he’s still alive, that the slow, deliberating melodies coming from his amp are not just the result of the final muscle spasms of a dying man. It doesn’t help that musically nothing seems to particularly stand out, on record ‘Roadrunner’ may be unassailable but when stripped of that context, it becomes just another series of sounds, slowly winding their way to their rambling conclusion, before being replaced by another near-identical song. For all their flaws, at least Mogwai understand that all music requires a focal point and compensate for their lack of vocals with volume and aggression, but all too often Papa M give you nothing to concentrate on other than their own meandering. ‘Drunken Spree’ briefly manages to redress the balance, but it says a lot about a band when the only time that they manage to hold your attention is with a rendition of the Byrds ‘Turn Turn Turn’, as newfound intricacies are played out on duelling guitars and banjo.

But you still can’t help from feeling cheated, that the reverence directed towards Dave Pajo is perhaps given too freely. He may have played his part in changing the course of American alternative music but that doesn’t make him untouchable. There’s no doubting his obvious genius, but sometimes you need that little bit more. He may not like touring, but after all these years you’d think that he should have got used to it, however, he still stands there for the entire show without even acknowledging our presence before him, with only his frequent nervous fidgeting to prevent him from becoming motionless. As post-rock becomes increasingly ubiquitous, you find yourself hoping that such iconic figures will press forward and open new channels, but Papa M seem far too content to remain static, and that just can’t be considered enough anymore.