SENNEN / MATT WINKWORTH, 6TH MAY 2010, OXFORD JERICHO TAVERN
Some people are natural born performers, and Matt Winkworth is without doubt one of them. Some people would be discomforted by the spartan crowd, but the silence suits his clever, theatrical, idiosyncratic compositions and he actually seems to revel in the circumstances.
He can do whimsical wordsmithery ('We Buy Your Gold'), but better are those songs - such as the one about discovering "a cure for death" - whose jovial smile seems to slip at times to reveal an altogether darker and more sobering insight. '4am' takes it further - it could, I suppose, be artfully affected artifice, but it certainly feels more like naked and heartfelt confessional, suggesting that this consummate performer also has the confidence to lay all of the masks to one side.
Hailing originally from the Isle of Wight and now resident in Norwich, Sennen must surely be used to splendid isolation by now - and yet, in contrast to their support, they're visibly dispirited by the turnout. I suppose it's their party - a tour to coincide with the launch of new single 'With You' - so they can sulk if they want to, but it strikes me as taking shoegaze a bit too literally and hardly does much to fire the enthusiasm of those of us who have bothered to come along.
What tempted me were the comparisons to Explosions In The Sky, but having reacted like one of Pavlov's dogs hearing a ding-a-ling, I'm disappointed to discover that they only really hold true for opening epic 'I Couldn't Tell You', with its neatly chiming guitars and blistering climax. In reality, they're far more akin to the dearly departed Six By Seven - aforementioned single 'With You' being a bristling, insistent case in point - but generally lack the spark and sparkle that would suggest they're capable of anything more than skulking along in the Nottingham band's shadow.
My overall impression of Sennen is much the same as it was for The Joy Formidable last year - they press some of the right buttons, but hamfistedness means that all too often they get the wrong number.