Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate - The Dublin Castle, Camden
4th January 2018 (with Jim Knipe)
The first gig of 2018 was a fairly low-key affair at The Dublin Castle in Camden, a venue I’d not previously attended. The main attraction was Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate but the evening involved first having to sit through a small number of support acts, beginning with the rather intriguing opening act Fake Plastic, a trio of bass, drums and guitar who played short, spiky numbers apart from their final song, where they let rip with some psychedelic punk. They were followed by a nondescript set from singer/guitarist Russell Swallow and then Kent-based jazz-funk Unit 48 with an excruciating performance which conjured images of Haircut 100 fronted by the Ricky Gervais character David Brent.
I’d been invited to listen to Broken but Still Standing, the Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate late 2017 offering at the time of its release and found it a pretty good mixture of prog and post-rock, with Floydian soundscapes, deep themes and absolutely gorgeous flute which elevates passages to high-quality, spacey prog. A little bit of background research revealed that their 2016 album When the Kill Code Fails comes with a recommendation from Steve Hackett!
I’d been included in a tweet sometime during the day of the gig that flautist Kathryn Thomas wouldn’t be appearing and that the band, which can involve as many as five people or as few as just one, would be appearing as a duo, Malcolm Galloway on guitar and vocals, and Mark Gatland on bass, keyboard and effects; I wasn’t put off by the thought of a pared-down outfit because I knew that some of the material could be recreated using patches and triggers and though we weren’t going to get the flute-dominated opening fifteen minutes of Broken but Still Standing, there were plenty of other parts of the album which I like very much.
The set turned out to be a mixture of the shorter material from When the Kill Code Fails and Broken but Still Standing and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The programmed drumming, something I’m a bit wary of, sounded like an authentic kit and the washes and snatches of electronica were not dissimilar to the albums. There was one moment, possibly at the end of My Clockwork Heart where Galloway pressed the wrong foot pedal and guitar continued to play, even though the song had ended. Galloway’s vocal style is somewhat languid, a bit like the Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley, but it does suit the music; this is in comparison to Gatland who was a ball of energy, leaping around the small stage sometimes two footed, bringing his knees up to his chest. It wasn’t only good to listen to, it was genuinely entertaining and when I spoke to them afterwards it was quite clear that they’re both really nice guys.
I bought the two recent CDs Broken but Still Standing and When the Kill Code Fails and took advantage of the special merchandise stand offer – buy two, get a third (the debut album, 2012’s Invisible) free. The duo made an appearance at HRH Prog last year as stand-ins for Touchstone and by all accounts went down very well. It’s hardly surprising. Their originality, enthusiasm and great songs mark them out to be a group to watch. I can’t wait to see them with an extended line-up.