The Black Dogs/Lost Hours/Decoration/Diamond Family Archive @ Cuba Café, Manchester
29th April 2005)

The Cuba Cafe is acosy, intimate venue that doesn't require many patrons to acquire sardine-can status. The band that had prompted this visit were on first, an incongruous element on a rock-out bill - the fragile delights of the Diamond Family Archive. They've had a rummage around various junk shops and retrieved some items which they put to good use; guitar, cat-gut bow, casio keyboard, a drum, lap steel guitar, some stray percussion and obsolete electronica held together with bits of tape that somehow still work. It's impressive to see someone play keyboard and percussion at the same time but they're no show-offs, quietly creating delicate textures and warm layers which underpin fragments of plucked melody and gently whispered vocals.

After kicking off with understated beauty it was time to rev up the beast with three guitar bands, starting with Decoration who were bedevilled by gremlins in instruments and PA. They purvey a tough, driving and melodic pop and have a vocalist who possesses an individual style and a strong tremulous voice that's delivered with conviction. They never overcame their sound problems but their blighted set still offered enough to warrant further investigation. The gremlins knew better than to trifle with Lost Hours though, if they had they'd have been beaten into a pulp in a trice by the heavy, grungey assault. The vocalist takes advantage of a wireless mike to make several excursions amongst the assembly in a shirtless state. Perhaps one day they'll realise that just a little inspiration can outweigh an awful lot of perspiration. Topping things off were the Black Dogs; four of them, a guitar/bass/drums three-piece with vocalist - Warrington's finest apparently. They're like a new-wave Cream/Jimi Hendrix sort of thing, short pithy songs delivered with a louche style and genuine musicianship. They're very impressive, a proper rock'n'roll band. So the class came at either end of the bill, as well as either end of a few musical spectrums. (Laurence)


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