Live review of Exit Calm with support from Model Morning at The Venue, Derby, September 24th 2008.
It's never easy going on first, and for local outfits Catharsis and Heroes Of Switzerland it shows. The former's attempt at metal-tinged post-rock sounds tired and formulaic, whilst the latter seem genuinely perturbed by something (maybe it was the lack of a soundcheck?) to the point where they give out the impression they would rather be anywhere else but on a stage playing music.
The gulf in quality couldn't be emphasised more emphatically by the arrival of the next band if you tried. Having first set eyes on Model Morning a couple of years ago when they were opening for the likes of Six By Seven and Amusement Parks On Fire, it was obvious way back then that they had the potential to achieve as much if not more than their overly celebrated peers. Oozing in confidence and with an array of songs that can actually see them leave their best known piece to date ('This Town') off the setlist entirely, the 2008 version of Model Morning is a five-headed beast that spars with Bowie's Aladdin Sane garb, wrestles in Slowdive's ethereal aftermath and drinks from the same fountain of white-but-tuneful noise as A Place To Bury Strangers. Two new songs ('2:15' and 'Expectation Is The Reason Why') are aired tonight that leave the mouth watering in anticipation of next year's long-awaited debut album. What's even more exciting about Model Morning is the feeling that their absolute best is yet come.
"Best" is a word that seems to run hand-in-hand with Exit Calm in recent months such are the many plaudits that seem to have been applied to them. The one which seems most apt however is "Best unsigned band", as it really is something of a mystery how they haven't been offered a deal. Admittedly, their wares aren't exactly radio-friendly, thus not quite befitting of the industry's current purge for "instant success", but the sheer intensity of their live show, not to mention the dynamic musicianship of guitarist Rob Marshall and unnerving presence of frontman Nicky Smith surely cannot go ignored for much longer.
What's more, as with the aforementioned Model Morning, Exit Calm possess a songbook that is becoming more recognisable with every listen, even if the phrase "three minute pop song" doesn't quite hold a place in their vocabulary just yet. 'Before Tomorrow' is a brooding mix of whispered vocals, searing guitars and groove-laden rhythms, while most recent composition 'Hearts And Minds' is what Explosions In The Sky would sound like if they'd grown up in the aftermath of the demise of South Yorkshire's coalfields and added a lyrical edge to their musical dexterity. Forthcoming single 'We're On Our Own' closes the set, its chiming guitars and sudden key change halfway through misleading half the room, mouths already aghast at what they've previously witnessed, into a false sense of security that becomes deafeningly symbolic as the song (and their set) draws to an emphatic finale. Astounding, mesmerising, inspirational; there are no shortage of superlatives that can be used to describe Exit Calm. Their time will surely come; let's just hope that time is sooner rather than later...