I Like Trains - Paradiso, Amsterdam, 10/11/10

A night watching a band at the Paradiso’s upstairs small hall always seems so much more enjoyable than one in the main hall downstairs. Especially when it’s an act Incendiary like and admire. Truth be told, we don’t often get into Amsterdam much to see bands nowadays, preferring our provincial and untrendy status; and in any case, there’s some vital ingredient or element missing in the town, (insouciance?, fun?, old fashioned enjoyment, who knows?), and there has been for the past 3 years or so. But seeing as I Like Trains were about, we broke our purdah.

The Trains have been on a slow march towards music’s sunlit uplands for the past two years, shedding the inhibiting paraphernalia of being a scene band liked by “clever types” and attaining something that better befits their worldview and music. It’s been a tortuous ascent, but the dogged nature of the band has seen them blossom, and creating music that has been drunkenly described to me once as Charlotte Bronte set to music. Pithy, I know, but there’s something in it. The band’s creation of something worthwhile artistically (namely the latest LP He Who Saw the Deep) hasn’t gone unnoticed, as the room is surprisingly full and full of excited chatter.

And, very much on time, (rare for these late night midweek gigs) The Trains enter stage left, heads down, full of purpose it seems, to a clashing metallic sound that is part way between the Rank Films gong and an industrial drill. Things kick off with a trio of the strongest tracks from the new LP: Sirens, A Father's Son and We Saw the Deep. Immediately noticeable is the balance and sheer power inherent in this music: gone are the dramatic swirls of noise, replaced by a reliance on balancing strong rhythmical structures with a web of seductive guitar loops and vocals. This is music that oozes confidence and is happy to sit back and let the listener find their own space. Indeed throughout the gig it was entertainment enough to watch people start to slowly sway to the music as if doing some kind of basic yoga. And played live the LPs tracks sound much sexier, and more… well, tribal. It must be the strident drum parts, or it could be the vocals, which frankly sound much more human and engaging nowadays. Still, A Rook House for Bobby and Voice of Reason were pretty elegiac and gave the older fans to nod abstractedly to.

Towards the gig’s end matters went up another level entirely, as Terra Nova (maybe the culmination of their hysterical doom-mongering) was superseded by magnificent versions of two of the more wistful tracks of ’The Deep, These Feet Of Clay and Sea of Regrets. A happy crowd even got an encore, a blistering version of Spencer Perceval no less, and the band finally let rip, doing that simultaneous, wobbly-kneed wobbly-headed freak out that is so much fun to watch: (David being especially reminiscent of one of those toy wooden figures on a pedestal that collapse into a limp pile when you press your finger under the base).

Tremendous stuff.