Buried Treasures: The Kingsbury Manx

on Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Buried Treasures is a column dedicated to things we feel have gone underappreciated, often both critically and commercially. We encourage you to seek these moments out and hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Words: Simon Opie

Band: The Kingsbury Manx

photo by Jim Newberry

I usually have a lot to say – always contradictory since my opinion varies with my mood – concerning the subject of the best album of all time. But I have no doubt at all as to the best gig I ever attended – from really a lot of contenders. It was Calexico at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire sometime at the start of the 21st century.

Why was it so good? Well, Calexico were on fine, improving form, with a great crop of new songs to play and a Mexican mariachi band joining them on stage for a stunning finale. I joined in from the floor with frenzied dancing that I imagined to be far cooler than I am sure it actually appeared to be. But the real icing on the cake was the support act – The Kingsbury Manx (yes, who doesn’t eat the icing first). Apart from anything else, I don’t think I had ever heard a band quite like them before.

Unassuming on stage, their music had a delicate flow and a surprising intensity, building songs from rhythms and plaintive guitar lines. They rocked the place with the power of quiet music and I was entranced. It helped that they had songs with inappropriate titles like 'Piss Diary' since that made them all the more enigmatic. And when they launched into 'Let You Down' and 'Porchlight' from what was then their latest, and second, album, 'Let You Down', they seemed ready to take on the world.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. In truth, they were not quite as original as I ignorantly imagined them to be, and the tidal wave of New American Folk bands soon to emerge just swept them up. As with anything delicate, there’s a fine line between intense and cloying – over the years, personnel changes have taken their toll and softened the edges on 2005’s 'The Fast Rise And Fall Of The South' and 2009’s 'Ascenseur Ouvert!' But the first two albums – the eponymous debut and 'Let You Down' - remain magnificent and flinty, and I have recently returned to them with a vengeance.

Preview The Kingsbury Manx back catalogue at Amazon.co.uk, where you can also buy the albums.

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