Today 7″ club (again for those who missed last weeks the concept behind this piece is a box of records I found at home, from approx 6-7 years ago, one selected at random each week) is a very personal little number. I’m expecting it may turn into something of a rambling piece about youth and young manhood (not the Kings of Leon album) so I’m going to spare it a long introduction, so please welcome the 7″ clubs second member…
iLiKETRAiNS – BEFORETHECURTAiNSCLOSE
To many people, iLiKETRAiNS aren’t known at all, to many more they are known purely for having an incredibly daft name, to me they are far far more than that. I believe if memory serves I first saw them supporting ¡Forward, Russia! at The Brudenell Social Club, but those hazy days are a bit of a blur, plus I probably saw them play 15 or 20 times, normally at the Brudenell. Lets add a little context, the year is 2005, I am a student at Leeds University, my hair is long and my love of life high. I am the not cynic who sits before you 9 years later, I have no weariness for awful support bands, I have not seen one too many bearded post-rock bands trudge through a set of 30 minute long nothingness. I like music, a lot, I will travel for music, a long way. I went to Coventry to see Redjetson, I went to Cardiff to see Hope of The States, but for iLiKETRAiNS (admittedly and Redjetson and a holiday) I went to Paris! Yes that’s right people, I liked a band who lived about 5 minutes from my house and played down the road from said house almost weekly enough to go and see them in Paris! On my many trecks up and down the country I grew to know and love the people behind the music. I liked them, they seemed to at least put up with me, it became less about going to see the songs (though lord knows I loved the songs) and more about a sort of weird kinship between a band struggling to make a living and a student with way too much time on his hands and the like minded individual he found along the way. I like to think we had a bond! Like most people there came a time in my life where I couldn’t follow the bands to the extent I used, partly time, partly money, partly realising there were other things to do, some of which didn’t involve many hours worth of National Express coach journeys, but in my still deeply romanticised way, I think I stopped because things changed around me, rather than I myself change. Would I still be traipsing across the country if everyone I used to do it with still was, possibly, but I don’t know because I don’t need to know.
And what of the music? What of this rather splendid piece of vinyl?
Side A, is appropriately titled BEFORETHECURTAiNSCLOSE PART i (can you guess what the B-sides called?) it starts off with some pounding toms, in a rhythm if you were spelling out would go “BOOM boomboom BOOM boomboom” it’s soon joined by bursts of cornet. It’s pretty darn creepy, and that’s even before Dave starts singing. Dave’s voice is a powerful weapon, a sort of gruff baritone mixed with the very real feeling he might cave your head in at any second (a complete contrast to the charming bearded chap he is in reality). He croaks in here with the opening gambit “you move so slowly, it’s almost as if you know, that I am watching you” what’s happened to creepy songwriting? The days of bands like The Cooper Temple Clause lyrically bumping people off left right and centre seem long gone! The old cliche in the iLiKETRAiNS world was that they sounded like Sigur Ros mixed with Nick Cave. It was nonsense of course, but they did like a song about someone dying (their debut full length album was pretty much a concept album about death, and as cheery as you’d imagine that to be) They also did a rather neat note in making a blinking racket! Bass pulses, guitars twang, drums crash, cornets blast it all makes for one mighty big crescendo. To see them live was to have your ears blown off in the best possible way, as the band stalked the stage like rutting stags (or that’s what they probably thought they did, in reality they looked like rutting railway conductors but it was just as effective). During the big finale of this opening track, the whole thing sounds in danger of falling apart into a big noisy mess, it just about holds it together, and it’s certainly a thrilling noise. Lyrically it continues on a similar vein, telling the tale of a stalker watching an ex-lover moving on “now he’s getting you undressed, I close my eyes but it’s all in my head” it doesn’t sound like it’s going to end well for this new man about the house, as Dave carries on “i’ll extract his teeth and make them into a necklace for you, a small token to apologise for all the pain I’ll put you through” it’s fair to say our Dave’s a tad obsessed here…it’d also be fair to say that Dave’s delivery is at record breakingly slow levels of enunciation, each word is left to hang and meticulously pronounced, it’s really a very unique style indeed, and probably very divisive, works beautifully if you ask me!
The B-side, yes you guessed it, BEFORETHECURTAiNSCLOSE Part ii (if you’re wondering about the punctuation, it’s their doing not mine, it’s like a style choice or something) carries on lyrically at least in a similar vein, it’s certainly just as creepy. “I let myself into your house, aren’t you pleased to see me?” he carries on into the next verse, knowing their fate is sealed “I’m making the news again, we’re making the new again, you only have yourself to blame, you also cried on our wedding day, well this is the last time…” seems like it’s not only the new boyfriend who’s in trouble here! Musically it’s a different beast, starting of with slow chiming guitars, it’s considerably less frantic than it’s A-side sister. The opening guitar interplay indeed recalls Interpol at their most morbid. This slow build from a quiet start on display here was the blueprint for much of their early career indeed guitarist Guy once quipped “this songs different to the others, the loud bits at the start and then it gets quiet”
For a debut 7″ a concept piece about someone checking themselves out of an asylum and going on a vengeful, passionate, lust driven killing spree isn’t the obvious start to a career in the pop charts. Credit where it’s due though the accompanying videos, the artwork which depicts a Rorshack test and the lyric cards written in what appears to be blood were certainly a sign of a band dedicated to their ideas. Maybe I’m biased, but to me this is a very special little piece of vinyl
What happened next?
Well considering this was released on a wonderful but very local little independent label (the now legendary Dance To The Radio) the boys went on to create a little niche in the market all of their own and are, I’m pleased to stay, still going today. Indeed they have just celebrated their 10 year anniversary with a vinyl re-issue of their debut EP. That EP “PROGRESS REFORM” was released on Fierce Panda, before they progressed still further up the label ladder releasing their full length debut “Elegies to Lessons Learnt” on Beggars Banquet. As mentioned previously this was a historically accurate account of a number of tragic events in history. Covering among it’s topics the Salem Witch Trials, the assassination of British Prime-Minister Spencer Perceval and The Black Death. Following the sad demise of Beggars Banquet, they released the brilliant instrumental EP “The Christmas Tree Ship” on Fantastic Plastic before going on to form their own label appropriately title I Like Records and now home to Post War Glamour Girls and Stalking Horse. On their own label they have flourished and released the two best records of their career to date 2010’s “He Who Saw The Deep” and 2012’s “The Shallows” still dealing with fascinating topics (The Shallows was the bands take on the great debate about technology and our relationship with it) but now adding more texture, and shades to their sound. There’s plenty to suggest the best’s still to come from this wonderfully different band, even if they are currently dealing in their own past touring across Europe in honour of their 10 year anniversary. Oh and if you’re wondering…they finally decided to drop the punctuation thing and now go by the much simpler to type I Like Trains…hoorahs all round!
I Like Trains (or if it’s a re-union tour iLiKETRAiNS) play London’s Jazz Cafe next week (12th of February) and then continue across Europe and the UK. Their most recent records, as well as the re-released vinyl of The Christmas Tree Ship EP are available from iliketrains.co.uk now