The New Mendicants - Mono, Glasgow, 15 Jul 2013
Norman Blake and Joe Pernice offer a peculiar balance of endearing humour and deep sensitivity
'Right, enough comedy, here's the tragedy', laughs Joe Pernice halfway through The New Mendicants' intimate set in the mellow, warming surroundings of Mono.
Although Pernice's name doesn't necessarily ring immediate bells over this side of the water (he's the fuel behind the fire of The Pernice Brothers), his collaborator pal Norman Blake's certainly does. Tonight, Teenage Fanclub founder and Glasgow exile Blake joins Pernice for some quick quips and cups of tea as the duo unfurl the wrapper of debut offering the 'Australia 2013' EP.
Stripped-back versions of the EP's high fidelity recordings are played out in an unwinding set interspersed with both wit and tenderness. The inevitable presence of songs from both artist's impressive canons surface, and the gig feels as celebratory as it does a showcase; a subtle blend of both past and present is left on the palette. A few funny tales are told – fables of how they stumbled upon each other in a Toronto tavern, the comical events surrounding Pernice's cameo on The Gilmore Girls, and collaborating to produce songs for the soundtrack of Nick Hornby's film adaptation Long Way Down – all of which were rejected. These intermittent stories help rebalance a melancholy atmosphere inevitably created by playing reveries dipped in sadness.
'Follow You Down's' childlike lyrics (depicting a youth contemplating suicide on a high ledge) of 'I won't let you be forgotten/ so I'll follow you down to the bottom' combine with Blake's glockenspiel - temporarily implanted into their music tonight – to juxtapose childish against haunting. It is this, and their other sorrowful musing 'Sarasota', which fully expresses the collaborative song-writing strength of The New Mendicants.
Teenage Fanclub's 'I Don't Want Control of You', actually written by Blake's daughter, is also stripped-back to reveal, in its bare format, an immensely pensive intensity. Their collaboration is not without its criticism though. 'Amazing Glow's' eponymous chorus is mawkish, producing similar nauseous feelings of a sickly dessert, and some of their material casually travels over the head instead of straight through the solar plexus. Overall though, Blake and Pernice together possess a peculiar balance of endearing humour and deep sensitivity, and clearly enjoy entertaining their new fanclub.