i have been to a number of fine gigs recently, albeit tending towards the old-skool - we saw obituary again during the world cup, and they are a fantastic live band - like heavenly, you really don't appreciate why they're quite so popular until you see them in their element. we also went to see the wedding present a few nights before that: at the end of the day, they have got the songs, they really have got the songs. they were my favourite band nineteen summers ago and they weren't too far off again: "you should always keep in touch with your friends" and "everyone thinks he looks daft" were the necessary nods to 1986, sweetly ramshackle but somehow the more affecting for it, but plenty else went right - "dalliance" and "kennedy" as the usual blissful walls of guitars, while "mercury" is such a sweet, evergreen song, and a closing "octopussy" was, similarly, so tenderly weighted… and last week, we even went to see british sea power, albeit they were playing a wedding party on a boat on the thames - whether they are also available for bar mitzvahs, i know yet not, but I found myself tapping my feet to them surprisingly easy.

anyway, this friday night, after a very fortuitous piece of late night web-surfing had revealed not only that the legendary secret shine had reformed, but that they were about to step out on to the boards in our very own manor, we traipsed down to the water rats to see them, at what in fact transpired to be their "official" comeback gig. on arriving at said venue there was a fire engine parked outside, momentarily prompting fears that a stage-struck, supershy 'shine had managed to get themselves stuck up a tree or something. luckily, it turned out that they were in the venue all along, and so, as part of a slightly disappointing turn out of punters, we watched secret shine live for the first time in - well, it must have been a dozen years.

i have never wavered from my love for secret shine, not least because i always felt they were somewhat better than the bands they were seen as trying to imitate - i got the impression, back in the day, that they would have traded aged relatives to sign to creation, but the point for me was that the way they had travelled from the equally brilliant but timid likes of "unbearable", "after years" etc to the dizzying headiness of "loveblind" or "deep thinker", without ever losing their (high-pitched!) vulnerability, made them stand head and shoulders above the kind of self-absorbed fashionable guitar noise that mcgee was selling at the time. in a sense, secret shine ended up getting it in the neck both from dyed-in-the-wool sarah recs traditionalists (for not sounding like a sarah band), and from everyone else (basically, for being on sarah). some of my mates, tending towards that second camp, have said vastly disparaging things about secret shine in the past, which considering they liked bands like my jealous god or thousand yard stare, still makes me bristle to this day.

so while those secret shine t-shirts i proudly wore at college have long since expired, i very much enjoyed watching them play a set packed with new songs (but don't worry, "loveblind" was in there too: as were "into the ether" and (i think) "ignite the air")... the decade of inactivity doesn't seem to have done much to dampen the impact of their double vocal attack and spiralling guitars, and the mix of delicacy and fire in their songs remains, um, untouched. hurrah for that.


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