Gig: ballboy – Oran Mor, Glasgow 12/6/2007

Oran Mor was barely half full for this gig on an exceedingly wet Tuesday night. When Ross Clark, the first act, appeared there were probably no more than thirty folk present. Oh great, I thought, a bloody singer-songwriter. By the end of his thirty minute set I was grinning from ear to ear. Clark may look like a third Proclaimer, have rudimentary skills on the guitar and be as loose as nine year old knicker elastic, but he has presence. His songs fall somewhere in between Daniel Johnston and Loudon Wainwright, with loose structures but very strong melodies. He’s got a good voice, too, and has the confidence to riff on the songs. They are good tunes, too. A few seemed to be about singing songs in public – one ended with the lines “I’m too drunk to carry on” – but they were funny and clever. There was no Bluntist balladry here. I liked him a lot. He didn’t really sound like anybody else I’ve heard, which for a bloke with a guitar is some achievement.

Odeon Beat Club followed. Indie music beamed in from the mid eighties. It was all done with some panache and belief. Not really my cup of tea, but I can’t be rude about them when I’ve heard stacks of bands operating in the same field who are far inferior. They did what they do well.

Ballboy, of course, would never win any awards for musical originality. It’s never really mattered. The music may be straight out of the Wedding Present circa 1987, but Gordon McIntyre’s songs have always been the main draw. The music may be retro, but it fits just fine. Tonight, though, seemed flat. The new material doesn’t show much in the way of progress. The songs all seem to be based on the same old three chords, and even the lyrics are covering old ground. Old tunes like “Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue”, “Olympic Cyclist” and “Sex Is Boring” sounded as great as ever. But I left feeling a little glum. Like facing a partner over breakfast and realising how stale things have become, and how the magic has gone. Ballboy seem stuck in a rut. They played “Avant Garde Music”: “The girl who works in the record shop / She says that I am not avant garde enough / Well so what / She only works in a record shop / She only works in a record shop / And I don’t give a fuck what she says or she thinks about me”. Gordon – she may have a point.

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