South provide a timely reminder of an immense talent

Review by Jack Foley

WHEN will South get the recognition their music so richly deserves? It's a pertinent question and one which demands an answer, particularly for anyone who witnessed their barnstorming gig at the ICA on Thursday, March 13, 2003.

Designed as a showcase for new material, the gig - set within the intimate confines of the ICA building off Pall Mall - was a resounding success - accomplished, inspiring and, above all, personal.

Friends littered the crowd, cheering each new track with the same enthusiasm that was reserved for the band's favourites, even though many of the new tracks were only being heard for the first time. But then the second album has been a long time coming.

South first arrived on the scene in 2000, with the Mo'Wax-produced album, From Here On In, which was produced by DJ, James Lavelle, and looked destined for big things. Yet, three years on, and they have failed to maintain a presence in the limelight.

Last year, they played a hugely successful gig at ULU in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust (organised by Indielondon's Simon Pinion), and embarked on an equally well-received tour of America (during which they co-headlined with Elbow), but an EP, Nothing Personal, failed to materialise and they subsequently left the Mo'Wax label.

Now, however, they're back... and how. If the quality of the new tracks played at the ICA is anything to go by, then Joel Cadbury, Jamie McDonald and Brett Shaw really ought to be on the verge of big things.... again.

New tracks such as Colours in Waves and Nine Lives carried an instant likeability to them, combining elements of the old with a harder, more guitar-driven direction. Colours in Waves, especially, is a far more sweeping record than anything on the first album, a brasher, louder track that could well make its mark alongside the current crop of guitar-led singles currently enjoying a timely revival.

As they told Zoe Ball, on a recent XfM session, the first album was like moving into a new house; the second is like positioning the TV - they feel more comfortable with it and claim that the songs are stronger than ever. Hence, the presence of a wider collection of instruments (not present on the night) and strings, as well as a more mature sound.

Not that the first album should be dismissed; far from it. The quality which helped to make it so memorable brought a welcome and familiar ring to the evening, whenever the band chose to return to it. Hence, tracks such as Keep Close, with its slide guitars and slow building choruses, as well as the Roses-inspired Paint The Silence, still sounded as fresh as ever, and as exciting as when you first heard them.

Another personal favourite, Live Between The Lines (Back Again), remained as beguiling as ever; its subtle acoustic guitars and lush drum beats once again appealing to the hairs on the back of my neck.

Joel even found time to offer some political commentary (urging people to enjoy what they had now, before the advent of war, and declaring any action against Iraq as something that was 'not in our name'), before arriving at the final track, a cover of a Nick Drake record, which provided the perfect platform for a genuinely thrilling finale.

They even granted the fans an encore, which culminated in an instrumental version of Ian Brown's Dolphins Were Monkeys (UNKLE version) that really allowed them to let go. Drummer, Brett Shaw, sporting a Stillwater-inspired 'new look', particularly looked to be having fun, losing his headphones on a couple of occasions, but ensuring that the tight beat remained intact until the end.

But then this was a night to remember (complimented by the excellent support from The Cornerstones), which provided an excellent taster of what to expect from the new album.

Produced by Dave Eringa (who has also worked with the Manics and Idlewild), and as yet untitled, it is due to be released in the summer on Kinetic/BMG records and we suggest you go buy it. On the strength of this evening, it'll be another classic.

RELATED STORIES: South play ULU in aid of the TCT, click here...
An interview with South, compiled last year. Click here...
South - From Here On In CD review. Click here...