Review: Alex Rex in Manchester, 07/02/2020

There are live bands and there are studio bands. Then there are those like Alex Rex’s which perform both roles with equal aplomb.

They were in Manchester on the second night of a short tour (more dates will follow later in the year), mainly to promote his new album, Andromeda, which was released on the same day and which was recently reviewed in GIITTV.

Let me say straight off that if you have never seen Alex Rex (the ‘nom-de-guerre’ as he puts it of Alex Neilson) in his solo mode or in a band (he’s in, or has been in many, probably the best-known of which was the now-disbanded Trembling Bells) you are doing yourself a disservice.

Over the years he has assembled a collection of top-class musicians, mainly based in Glasgow and including Rory Haye,  the Parisienne Audrey Bizouerne (Rev Magnetic) and Georgia Seddon (Mike Heron / The Incredible String Band).

Rory and Audrey swap lead and bass guitars throughout the set with complete mastery of their instruments while Georgia could be an offspring of Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman, her hands a blur as they whip across a Nord Electro and all three of them produce outstanding harmonies.

Alex Rex himself is a contradiction, being one of the most understated drummers and yet the most flamboyant when necessity calls. And while he might not be amongst the leading vocalists technically, he certainly is emotionally.

 

There has been a great deal of emotion on display in both of his last two albums, Andromeda and Otterburn, on account of a family tragedy; indeed it is a story which makes both the albums. But as when I last saw him in Continue reading

Review: Alex Rex “Otterburn”

Alex Rex – Otterburn
Tin Angel – 29 March 2019

One of the impressive things about truly original and important artists – Bob Dylan, say – is their ability to reinvent themselves continuously without ever losing track of the thread of their own unique sonic identity. Every second of every great Dylan album could only be Bob Dylan. The difference between Dylan songs in various periods is vast, yet the unifying themes, the lyrical and musical echoes, the sly references that link, for example, One Too Many Mornings to Tangled Up In Blue to Caribbean Wind and beyond combine to produce a body of work so self-sufficient, so pulsating with its own life, that it is practically an ecosystem.

When former Trembling Bells drummer and songwriter Alex Neilson released Vermillion, his first album under the Alex Rex nom de plume, more than one reviewer mentioned Dylan. At the time, the comparison might have appeared superficial: sure, songs like God Make Me Good (But Not Yet) and Postcards From A Dream nodded towards a vaguely Dylanesque sound, one in which Blonde On Blonde, Nashville Skyline and Desire existed simultaneously, but weren’t there fresher, more interesting things going on in Neilson’s songs? In hindsight, and with a full overview of his songwriting career at hand, it seems extremely perceptive

This becomes ever more apparent when listening to the latest Alex Rex album. Just as on Blonde On Blonde you might find a snappy and brutal takedown of the singer’s former lover next to a nostalgic love song to his future wife, on Otterburn you will experience demented guitar-driven odes to masochistic sex rubbing shoulders (and other body parts) with the saddest and sincerest of elegies. And Neilson is unafraid to delve into his own musical past to come up with those often uncanny musical echoes: Otterburn’s last track, Smoke And Memory (which I will talk about in more detail later) is almost a musical mirror image of Seven Years A Teardrop, the song that closed Carbeth, the first Trembling Bells album, almost exactly ten years ago. Continue reading