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Devon’s Cosmo Jarvis is one of the most interesting characters in the U.K underground music scene and certainly one of the most difficult to classify.  Listen to an album, an EP or even a single song, you experience a whole gamut of styles and genres, ranging from folk to punk and all things in-between.  Apart from “My Day” on latest album “Is the World strange, or am I Strange,” Jarvis plays every instrument, highlighting an incredible musical talent.  Apart from your standard, guitar, drums, bass and keyboards, also apparent are recorders, penny whistles, mandolins and banjos as he experiments constantly with sounds, structures and textures.  More time changes you won’t find this side of a progressive metal or math band.  I’m intrigued how the album tracks will transfer to the full band set up tonight.

Forty Five minutes before Cosmo takes the stage however, local artist, James Munro appears, acoustic guitar in hand and announces himself to a respective audience.  A solo singer songwriter from Stockport, Munro proceeds to play half a dozen perfectly pleasant, although slightly unmemorable songs in a folk / country style, which are met with appreciative and polite applause.  Full credit to the audience, seated around the room, as Munro is given the chance to be heard, chat kept to an absolute minimum.  

The crowd is slowly building as 9.45 approaches and although it’s a reasonable turn out at The Night and Day, some seats at the circular tables and the bar are still available, with just a handful stood near the front,  surprising as he performed to acclaim at the Pride Festival in the city just a few weeks ago.  Having discovered Cosmo Jarvis in the last year through the “Gay Pirates” single, “Sure as Hell Not Jesus” EP and subsequent second album, I don’t recognise the first couple of songs, although particular aspects are immediately apparent. Jarvis is an exceptional musician as expected, especially his guitar work and the band are also on top form.  He suggested in a discussion before the gig, for future albums utilising these musicians would become a priority as although enjoying the solo process of constructing songs during recording, the band would give more of an organic feel, which on tonight’s evidence can only be welcomed.  In particular he mentioned the influence of the “live” recorded sound from American punk band The Bronx, which although unexpected, begins to make sense particularly after experiencing an absolutely blistering thrash through “My Day.”  

Jarvis can’t be described as a natural performer, between songs his insecure personality becoming more and more apparent. Slightly unnatural nervous banter is extended to the audience, although even more so, an almost constant, admittedly polite and apologetic dialogue with the sound desk, asking for levels to be lifted, then lowered, striving for aural perfection. He even takes time mid “Sure as Hell not Jesus” to ask for more guitar in his monitor, which when added to a couple of occasions when re-tuning is required, provides quite a disjointed performance. 

That’s not to say Cosmo Jarvis isn’t enjoyable, far from it, “Gay Pirates” probably the most recognisable song, is a wickedly dark pop song about a homosexual love affair on board ship, providing an opportunity for a couple to display a manic twirling dance at the side of me.  “Betty” is a sprawling mass of musical genres.  Opening as a slice of funky indie pop, Jarvis and cam padres traverse through reggae, rock and even Ukrainian dance passages for eight of the most completely diverse musical minutes you’ll ever experience.

Cosmo Jarvis isn’t interested in trends or fashions, scenes or movements or motivated by materialism, a musician in the truest sense of the word. A man who lives for his art, bares his thoughts and soul through his lyrics and really doesn’t care what you think of him, well past that point. Cosmo is doing what he does best, if you want to join him, that’s fine.......if you don’t, that’s fine too. My advice, give him a chance, there’s a lot to admire....... just don’t expect spandex and dancing girls.

Review by Andy Barnes

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