Turning up to review a gig and finding an audience mostly consisting of well meaning middle-aged white men with fashionable beards and leather jackets can be a worrying sign. But seeing the owner of a well loved Edinburgh record shop put my mind at ease. As he sipped his craft beer he told me that his kitchen renovation was coming along nicely and he thanked me for my contributions to the funds.
From the very first song you can tell what Trembling Bells are about – an updated take on the British psychedelic folk of the 60s and 70s. Their main influences are evident, bands like Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and The Incredible String Band. Most reviewers would take the lazy approach and say that the singer Lavinia Blackwell sounds a lot like Sandy Denny… that being said, she does sound a lot like Sandy Denny, but you can hear a bit of Grace Slick in there as well. If you heard them on an Old Grey Whistle test compilation they wouldn’t feel out of place.
The setlist mostly contained songs from their new album and provided a great selection that progressed naturally. You could ignore some songs as over complicated and twiddley prog. But if you where to do that, you would be missing the fact they contain the heart of fantastic pop singles. Some movements took beats from The Art Bears, and there was guitar work reminiscent of mid XTC, which ensures that the tunes are more interesting than just carbon copies of Fair Port’s back catalogue.
None of the songs embarrassingly petered out at the end, as so many prog songs are prone to do. But the wall of sound approach did make it difficult to pick out what was happening and slightly undermined what are well written songs.
The standout song of the evening was a humours and surreal solo-sung ditty that had the entire audience captivated and silent, which is pretty impressive with a Scottish audience. Though at one point the band was heckled with “more like Trembling Bell Ends” which is practically high praise in Edinburgh.
All in all the band pulled out a rather enjoyable show of good clean fun. There were no songs that touched on the heights of their influences at their best, for instance Incredible String Band’s Maker of Islands. As a band working within a well known genre, there wasn’t anything that was mind blowing and new. But the simple fact remains … when all said and done you can’t help liking what they do.