Dec 16, 2022
By Dom Gourlay
With nearly two decades behind them and a back catalogue full of critically acclaimed releases, it would be easy for I LIKE TRAINS to just slip into cruise control and play just “the hits” as it were. Yet here we are, on a freezing cold Sunday night in Nottingham with temperatures below zero witnessing a band still pushing boundaries and the envelope that goes with it. Although initially considered to be “the thinking man’s post rock band” due in no small part to the carefully researched historical subject matters of their songs, often accompanied by reverb and distortion heavy melodies. I LIKE TRAINS’ last few releases have seen them change direction somewhat, culminating in 2020’s excellent fourth full long player Kompromat.
Whereas the majority of I LIKE TRAINS’ lyrical content dealt with the past, Kompromat was firmly fixated on the present. Most notably the corrupt governments dictating western policy on both sides of the Atlantic. It was also significantly different in that the songs were mostly accompanied by a more angular musical style than any of their previous works, so it was fascinating to see the various styles of I LIKE TRAINS musicality come together here over the course of ninety glorious minutes.
It could even be described as a game of two halves, something that would no doubt resonate quite well with vocalist and guitar player David Martin, who makes no secret of his love for local football club Notts County while reminding everyone on more than one occasion his beloved team sit proudly atop the National League (fifth division of English football). While the first half of the set focuses almost entirely on material from Kompromat save for a welcome run out of “Mnemosyne” off 2012’s third LP The Shallows, the second half is mainly devoted to songs from the band’s formative years. Intersected by two songs written this year; recent single “The Spectacle”, which follows in a similar fashion to Kompromat‘s lead single “The Truth” and the as-yet unreleased “Helsinki”, which could augment a further change in direction to dare I say it, a more pop orientated landscape.
Nevertheless, the likes of “A Steady Hand”, “Desire Is A Mess” and “Dig In” kickstart proceedings in an upbeat manner that doesn’t lose momentum at any point. Each sounding more aggressive in the flesh than their recorded counterparts, Martin and his assorted cohorts making an incendiary racket while images of world leaders and a range of misdemeanours are projected on a screen behind them. “The Beeching Report” gets an appropriate airing as the UK is currently gripped by the ongoing rail dispute while “A Rook House For Bobby” and “Terra Nova” both serve as timely reminders why I LIKE TRAINS earned such widespread acclaim in the first place.
“A Man Of Conviction” and “New Geography” lead seamlessly into Kompromat centrepiece “The Truth”, Martin improvising with lyrical asides about the previous night’s football “not coming home” (England lost to France) alongside its caustic references to self serving politicians and the governments that enable them. Returning to the stage for an encore of 2007’s “Spencer Perceval”, a song written about the 1812 assassination of the UK prime minister of the same name, only from the perspective of his assassin. It proves to be a both poignant and magnificently grandiose finale to a perfect set that firmly assures I LIKE TRAINS status as one of most exciting an important bands on the planet right now.