- 03 Apr 02
The beauty - and there's a lot of it - of a Gemma Hayes show, is not in the centre but the periphery
The beauty – and there’s a lot of it – of a Gemma Hayes show, is not in the centre but the periphery.
It’s not about the fizzing, crunching choruses (learned at the feet of the static king himself, sometime producer Mark ‘Sparklehorse’ Linkous), but in the bright tactile sonar-pings and gentle-fingered slide of ex-Frames guitarist Dave Odlum. It’s not about Hayes’ lyrics, but about the rough sweet texture of her slow raw-sugar voice. And for that matter it’s about drummer Graham Hopkins’ low backing vocals, humming beneath Gemma’s like an unseen steadying hand. When all these combine, as on her two small-wonder EPs, they muster a gentle warmth: it’s a cosy firelit place, not a blaze. It’s comfort-listening, and it’s lovely. Which is why it’s so weird that here, in this sold-out, hushed-with-attention venue, we’re.. just.. a tiny bit.. bored.
Maybe something that milk-and-honeyish on record, is – live – a bit too mild to fully register. Maybe it’s that, despite the innovations of her co-players, her songs themselves are ultimately very pretty, but traditional – well-wrought also-rans on your average Uncut compilation, perhaps – and so when she constantly pauses to tune and retune (“Okay, it’s not funny anymore,” grumbles someone behind me), they can’t survive the longueurs. Whatever, the room – jammed and smoke-laced as it is – hardly crackles with atmosphere.