Modern Misfortune @ Henry’s Cellar Bar 31/05/13

3 stars (out of 5)

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modmis jpgIt’s a bit of a contrast with the last gig I reviewed.  That was in a shiny new purpose-built venue in London and this is in Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh which has a capacity of about a hundred  if everyone breathes in at the same time. This was a flying visit to have a look at Modern Misfortune, an Edinburgh/Glasgow-based band comprising Amber Milne (vocals), Andrew Mortimer (guitar), Adam Wier (bass), Euan Thompson (guitar and vocal) and our own Edinburgh correspondent Louie Anderson (drums).

Although this was a whistle-stop visit to see Modern Misfortune, I have to say something about The Phlegm after hearing the second half of their set.  Most of what I heard was passable psychobilly (including a cover of “Blue Suede Shoes”), but the set closer was a storming surfpunk version of the Surfaris’ 1963 instrumental “Wipeout” which got the crowd dancing, smiling or both.

It was a difficult act to follow, but Modern Misfortune opened with their live favourite “Disheartened” and grabbed the audience from the start of the set.  Playing spiky, punky guitar-based pop with female vocals invites comparisons with late seventies punk legends The Rezillos, and that’s pretty close to the mark with some of the material.  The band play the originals “Cry Witch” and “Zugzwang Detente” from their current EP/mini album plus “How to Lie”, “Nothing Left to Receive” and “B Young” and 1 seventies cover.  The original material is strong and delivered convincingly although not without a few problems.  Playing at this level, monitor mix is always going to be difficult and the lead and backing vocals seemed to struggle to stay in tune at times.

The seventies cover showed Modern Misfortune at their very best as they tackled the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love…” with tremendous energy as a straight copy initially before sliding into a Hendrix/Pink Floyd-inspired breakdown and back into the song structure again for the ending.  It got the crowd moving, particularly the ones who loved it first time round (me included), and left them in the right mood for the final song.

There was a lot to like in this live performance, particularly the strength of the songs and the way bass, drums and lead guitar worked together.  The lead and backing vocals were a bit ragged at times (which, to be air, I’ve heard from bands that have played together for years) and using two guitars felt a little over the top at times.  There’s definitely musical talent there and if it doesn’t break through in the guise of Modern Misfortune, it’s going to break through somewhere else.