Live Review Shearwater, Stereo, Glasgow

This rockier incarnation of Shearwater seems cut out to fill a larger space than Stereo.

Shearwater’s partiality to the progressive end of the musical spectrum has sometimes made them less than popular with hipper critics. However, with their latest release 'Animal Joy' (their seventh studio album and first for SubPop) they have been making a positive impression.

'Animal Life', the new album’s opener, fairly gallops along. Swapping between keyboards and guitar, leader Jonathan Meiburg’s vocal intonations undoubtedly recall Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, and Shearwater certainly share something of that band’s atmospheric range. 'You As You Were' is insistent and almost radio friendly, featuring some impressive guitar from Mitch Billeaud.

To a new ear this doesn’t immediately sound like a band prone to concept albums and “trilogies” about ornithology; it’s almost like they’re evolving in reverse into a more accessible proposition. With closer listening, the ambition and grandeur of some of the arrangements gives them away - imagine The National if they listened to Marillion; unlikely as it seems, Shearwater seem to capture essential qualities from both.

Multi-instrumentalist Lucas Oswald adds an extra drum to the already sturdy percussion provided by Danny Reisch (who, one is unsurprised to learn, also produced Animal Joy), replacing regular drummer Thor Harris for the time being (apparently touring with Swans has taken it out of him, but he does contribute to the album).

The fuzz and pace of 'Immaculate' unexpectedly invokes Wire or early REM. 'Pushing The River' offers more heavy drums and controlled noise – their prog is definitely showing - but they remain more disciplined than expected.

Tales of rookeries at the Westmoreland Services hark back to earlier album titles and offer a cue for (inevitable) Pink Floyd references. 'Leviathan Bound' (from 'Rook') builds slowly but remains concise.

The click clack rhythm of 'Breaking The Yearlings', the most immediate track on the new LP, is saved for the apex of the show - its mechanical beat pleasantly at odds with the bucolic subject matter. Thumping his bass, Christiaan Mader shows a guitar player’s versatility with a selection of pedals and contributes to the brawny rhythm section.

'Star Of The Age' plods like time lapse Tom Petty but never quite tips over into self indulgence and a solo encore from Meiburg highlights the Scott Walker / David Sylvian seriousness detectable in his vocal style.

At the end of the set they pull some Neil Young moments out of the bag - a bit of feedback while resisting the temptation to totally wig out – and they save a plausible cover of 'These Days' by REM for last. This rockier incarnation of Shearwater seems cut out to fill a larger space than Stereo but they’re also capable of delicacy when called for.