Adrian Crowley at the Sugar Club

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On a whim (and an offer of free entry) I made my way to the Sugar Club last night.

It was a night of firsts. The first time I was ever in the Sugar Club, for example. That place is weird. Waitress service to the tables DURING the gigs, and a soft, warm colour scheme that almost makes your face feel fuzzy. Felt like I should be watching a particularly glib stand up comedian.

Also the first time I’ve been directly stung by the cancellation of mid-week Nitelinks, leading to a twenty minute traipse to the nearest lend of taxi fare.

But primarily it was the first time I ever saw Adrian Crowley. He’s been on my radar in one way or another since Bren interviewed him in Analogue Issue 3, but for some reason (possibly an ongoing perception of him as a latent singer-songwriter type) I never got any of his albums or went to see him play.

I liked some of what he did last night. Whatever he was doing with his guitar – either some kind of ring modulator or maybe a midi organ effect or something? – added an interesting enough texture to make him different to the myriad other contemplative types. And at least one of his songs had the bass-thump treble-jangle of a good Daniel Rossen composition.

I was also a little intrigued by his lyrical obsessions. Almost every song he played in his set-plus-two-encores seemed to be about water, horses or bees. It’s fun to imagine the guy hidden away in a songwriter’s retreat somewhere, churning out song after song about bees, with a record company bellowing down the phone at him: “Please Adrian! Just write ONE boy-meets-girl and we’ll give you the world!” But that’s fantasy. Obviously.

The ongoing metaphorical occupation is probably the main saving grace, because where others become onanistic and bare with thin metaphors for sadness and lost love, Crowley explores some deeper, more literary territory. It makes him, at least, a little easier to listen to.

On the whole though, I’m not really converted. I remarked to my companion halfway through the gig that, though most of his songs don’t really have hooks per se, they are at least short enough not to become boring. As soon as I said this, Adrian Crowley proceeded to play a full band song for the guts of forever. While the musicianship of the backing band of drums, guitar and bass/keys was impeccable in itself, Crowley for me was generally better when he was quieter, and you could properly hear him think.

In summation, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a night, but I wouldn’t call myself a new fan. There’s enough to be sympathetic to the music if you encounter it, but the odds of being blown away by the quiet reticence and sincere, literary songwriting of this melancholy man aren’t great. I’m wary of being either too positive or too negative here: I don’t want to be too negative because I recognise that what he does is interesting enough, but I don’t want to be too positive because I can’t really see myself listening to much of it. I’ll give it a plus.

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8 responses to “Adrian Crowley at the Sugar Club

  1. that’s a pretty fair review there karlos. he has some pretty stand out songs on the new album, my favourite has got to be the wishing seat where he makes his guitar sound like an organ.

  2. I’m not quite sure about him. I listened to his last album a little and wasn’t too taken with it and have only heard one track from the new one – also not grabbing me a great deal. Lyrically though, the Callahan-esque leanings are different, you’re right. I often wonder, with some of these Irish acts, why people get so excited about them when they don’t seem to be doing too much to take you by the scruff of your neck and demand your attention. Subjectivity and all that, i s’pose…

  3. Here comes the geek talk. The organ sound is achieved by using an Eletro Harmonics POG (that’s polyphonic octave generator to you sir), a pretty nice piece of gear and because it’s tracking is top notch and it allows you to play on more than one string at the same time without it sounding like shit it (and maybe the cheaper micro version which doesn’t offer a 2 octave up option) is probably the best octave pedal out there though in many ways it’s been superseded by the HOG (harmonic octave generator) which is a vastly more powerful pedal which sells itself in part by it’s ability to do that organ sound as opposed to the POG for which I think it was a happy accident that someone figured out how to do it.

    Anyway, I’ve seen AC a couple of times and I find the songs where he uses that effect to be uncomfortable to listen to, too much high in them end gets right to me. Alright in small doses but for a whole song, nah.

  4. That’s a pretty interesting actually. Have you thought about doing technically themed blog posts at all? You seem to know what you’re talking about, and slightly more casual people (i.e. me) would be curious to get breakdowns of people’s gear or something like that.

    You get them for 90s alt bands and metal and stuff, but rarely for indie rock-esque stuff beyond Collected Animals and places like that, in my experience.

  5. To be honest I’d feel uncomfortable trying to portray myself as an expert by trying to blog about it.

  6. theres so much that can be done with songs about bees.one can be classical and all whirlwind-y piano about it. or theres bees of the killer variety.. both equally tasteful..
    i used to go to the sugar club only on days when my friend was flyering for them, free entry only partly makes up for the fact that THE DRINKS ARE ALL TEN EURO. urgh.
    ps. yes yes i concur, you should write about technical things! but in an approachable manner. i really didnt know what ADR stands for!!

  7. is he related to alastair crowley? only asking, cos the picture makes him look suitably sinister. Especially with the weird, almost pentagram-style, light behind him.

    Mr. Crowley, did you talk to the dead
    Your lifestyle to me seemed so tragic
    With the thrill of it all
    You fooled all those people with magic
    (Yeah)You waited on Satan’s call

    I bet this laboured comparative joke is as old as the hills. I’m almost, but not quite, retrospectively regretting it enough to hit submit…

  8. re: his lyrics – Rivers, horses, birds and all things pastoral are just the staples of a certain kind of earthy songwriter – see the last 3 albums by Bill Callahan/Smog for an obsession with the same.

    The Sugar Club as a music venue just about works for solo singer-songwriter types, I’ve never found it appropriate for bands though, the louder volume just turns the acoustics to mush.

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