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Harvest Sun @ Leaf 17/5/15

Incongruous is the word. This surely can’t work, can it? Will it? Well, there’s a mood in the air suggesting that this most unusual pairing of Teenage Fanclub mainman, NORMAN BLAKE, and lo-fi art punk legend of Half Japanese fame, JAD FAIR, makes absolute and perfect sense. The Scottish melodic guitar-pop troubadour and the psyched-up, wigged-out musician, writer, artist and serial collaborator who despises nothing more than a tuned guitar. Fair’s guitar is hinged at the neck, to enable, we presume, better distortion and note-bending. It can’t last. It’s bound to break before the gig’s out. After all, it’s a pink-and-white toy guitar.

Support tonight comes from AJHD. With a slight nod to early, fuzzed-up Teenage Fanclub, their insistence on coating every well-developed melody with wall upon wall of noise comes across as a little oppressive, and maybe not entirely necessary. For all its shoegazing delight, it’s a decent noise they make. The players, though, might benefit from relaxing into their ideas, and taking it all a little less seriously.

Jad Fair takes to the stage, and begins with a ten-minute poetic rant about angels in different-coloured dresses. His cluster-bomb lyrics butterfly in, on, and around Blake’s rhythm guitar, and it all starts to become a little clearer. This marriage was meant to be. New album YES is the second album they’ve collaborated on, and there are strong ideas to be found here. The key is in the contrasting backgrounds of each performer, which give each the space that’s needed from such duality. Fair’s slightly manic and panicked vocal delivery is as idiosyncratic as Blake’s guitar is solid and reliable, and he delivers his strangely visualised ideas with a strong sense of conviction.

There’s a swap as Blake takes the lead, aided by Fair behind the drums, and throws some classic Teenage Fanclub into the mix with It’s All In My Mind and I Don’t Want Control Of You, where his soft Caledonian croon almost lifts the lyric up from the song. Both artists here have collaborated with Daniel Johnston in the past, and so an excitable Fair takes the mic again for a joint rendition of Casper The Friendly Ghost. More of the hinged pink guitar, as Fair stomps on effect pedals, squirming and wringing manic noises from the toy, while Blake holds steady with the beat, watching his friend’s every move. It’s quite some crescendo, and a captivating part of the show.

Something has to give, and it’s the neck of Fair’s guitar that goes, snapping before being cast on the floor. This Fair’s cue to jump into the audience to finish the set with a passionate a cappella version of Sunny Side Of The Street. Of course. Why wouldn’t he? Bookending the night is a brief encore of two songs from the new album – Enjoy The Life and You Are The One – set to a somewhat unnecessary backing track, but we’re left largely believing in the incongruous, and appreciating the difficult.

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