PORTS at Whelan’s – Review
Every now and then, in the singalong fog of normal-ville radio, a song comes along that embeds itself into your subconscious. The first phrase of a sexy synth, the repetitive throb of a killer bass line, a lyric that reappears as poetry. It’s a song you have hope for, a song you want the world to feel, an undiscovered anthem. At the same time, you want to keep it for yourself, indulge in its exclusive beauty, absorb its perfect moment in time. Such beauty cannot stay unnoticed. So, like a lost love, or a parent of grown children, you have to let it go, release it into the world, to soak into the sonic landscape of lives, become part of a musical memory and be an advocate of joy. It’s a rare but beautiful thing.
I had my song struck moment the day I first heard ‘The Devil Is A Songbird’ by PORTS. It was back in 2013. I was researching an interview for a band from Derry called Little Bear when I discovered it. This fragile, sparkling, melody wrapped snugly in a verse of tortured language with the most desolate soundscape behind it. A magnificent tapestry of sadness with the feedback from whistling into two mobile phones giving it a unique lonesome quality.
Fast forward to 2015 and Little Bear have changed their name to PORTS. Their debut album, The Devil Is A Songbird is almost ready and the boys are in great form. Tonight at Whelan’s we are greeted by an open fire, red velvet and the rare treat of new material from the band. To a packed audience they reveal ‘Remedies’ and ‘Great Heights’, weaving an emotional soundscape via enduring bass lines, clever percussion and McCool’s earnest vocal. ‘Gameplay’ is the first single from the album. It’s a lush lullaby, rich in percussive texture with a swirling haze of understated guitars. Kind of has that ‘Chasing Cars’ constancy to it.
In amongst the newbies are the much loved ‘I’d Let You Win’, the track that got the boys onto the BBC Introducing platform, ensuring radio play from BBC Radio 1 and RTE. ‘In Summer’ opens as a slow, blue sky beach vibe. Shimmering cymbals and swelling crescendo with Richard Hawley hints at guitars. It’s all good, rising and falling into the smiling, swaying audience as ‘Ancient Wave’ and ‘Killer’ unfurl. ‘Bury my soul tonight/I lost control tonight’ croons Steven, in the midst of definitive piano, soaring cymbals and edgy riffs mellowed out into a massive soundscape. Slightly more folky in style, ‘The Few And Far Between’ echoes around the room as crowd friendly ‘Whoooooas’ permeate the song carrying fans along.
The final jewel in the crown is ‘The Devil Is A Songbird’, my song struck love. The lads have recorded it with the Prima Quartet, I can only imagine its allure. ‘This song has cost us a fortune’ says Steven. Yes, boys, but it will make you a fortune. And I, like a concerned parent, will have to let it go, out into the world to bring magic to the masses of normal-ville singalong radio.
The album is due out in February 2016, however you might hear ‘Gameplay’ before that as it will be used in the MTV series Awkward.