Live Review: Toby Martin, Magnetic Head

31 July 2012 | 10:25 am | Ross Clelland

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There's a line in one of Toby Martin's songs of relationships forming and unravelling that simply asks for 'a moment's grace'. But maybe it's the awkwardness in the conversations that gives them their honesty. Having such uneasy chats in person almost amplified the questions in them.

Martin has left his not quite rock'n'roll band that was (is?) Youth Group behind. Similar but different, Des Miller's Magnetic Head's has gone quieter as well. The band name – with its undertones of mixtape cassettes made for uni girls in Mary-Janes with matching beret and scarf – fits even better now. There's occasionally that old Lloyd Cole trick of fitting a few too many syllables into a line, but he still might be hiding behind that high-held guitar as he talked to her, then wrote a tune about it.

Some of those girls grew up to work in film or design, get asymmetric haircuts and boyfriends with beards and ironic spectacles. It's a surprise there are quite so many of them here, as the songs of Toby Martin's Love's Shadow seem about people whose jeans maybe aren't the right colour and cut for the season. However, other than the inevitable one with a voice like train brakes who wanted to yap all through, these intimate songs of little dreams and (more often) the object thereof walking away, made most listen like friends – or accomplices.

Lead You In does. Guests come and go, adding their colours. There is still that catch, that sigh, in Amanda Brown's violin that put the regret in The Go-Betweens' best songs, and does here in End Of The Affair. Sarah Kelly was fragile memory in wispy voice.

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While there's a restlessness in many of the songs, and frequently a nervousness in the patter between (“Shit, I've left my ukulele upstairs”), they're delivered with a relief that he's finally got them out to the world. He may never be totally Happy Where I Am, but as one of the smattering of Youth Group songs offered had it, maybe he can Start Today Tomorrow.