MINOR VICTORIES: live

OXFORD O2, 13/12/2016

Stuart Braithwaite. STUART BLOODY BRAITHWAITE.

If Mogwai are anywhere near being one of your all-time top bands, you’re not gonna miss a chance to see the owner of THAT guitar sound – one of the biggest and unassumingly most influential in the whole rock landscape – doing his stuff a mere few feet away, are you?

No. And this explains why Minor Victories at Oxford’s O2 – on the small stage upstairs – became a last-minute must-see (thanks Nightshift for the tip) in the last month of the year. With band members from Slowdive, Editors and the Twilight Sad in the band and on stage tonight, there’s plenty of pedigree kicking about.

Expectations? Pop-ish electro-tinged rock – iced cool atmos, verse-chorus Rock Action accessibility, nothing fierce, a background role for the ‘gwai guy … an essence rather than a force. The reality? All of the above but louder and less restrained in all the right places. Give Up the Ghost opens up with arena-baiting stomp and a toughened half riff that gives a teasing glimpse of Braithwaite in action, and what follows is a set of surging, widescreen orchestrations with moto-Stereolab pulsations and the UNKLE Psyence heavyweight drum break (Breaking My Light), all topped by Rachel Goswell’s overfloater vocals. ’tis rich and spacious and fulsome – a proper group effort, definitely not the look of a band who made an album without being in the same room.

And what of the guitarist’s proposed delegation to Background Lurker? Not even close. Sure, this band ain’t Mogwai monolithic but where there’s space, where there’s soar and uplift and tumult, there’s S.B.Uncut, swaying and tussling and just about taming that wild guitar energy EXACTLY as you’d hoped, but didn’t really have the nerve to expect. If Boris (Attention Please version) indulged in a little Sigur Ros or Pumpkins’ Adore, you might get something a bit like Minor Victories live – oversized alt-pop roughed up at the edges by volume – and for anyone with Mogwai love in their bones, this gig makes for a pretty special moment-o.

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