[sic] Magazine

I Like Trains – Brussels Botanique

“They’ve made mountains out of molehills”

I Like Trains , self-effacing, approachable, normal young men…make mountains – guitar mountains that begin somewhere grounded before stretching upward until the effects become breathtaking. It is only from such giddy heights that we can comprehend the utter depths of their material. You know the saying, bastardised from Kipling into the fridge magnet funny; “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…. then you probably haven’t grasped the situation” . iLT have grasped it. Like somebody who suddenly comprehends Cthulhu, they have seen the abyss. They have realized and accepted it. They’re ahead of the game in this respect. iLT exist in the sure and certain knowledge that we are all doomed.

Of course doom can be superb fun. Don’t believe me? I refer you to Dad’s Army’s wild-eyed Scot, Frazer. Or if you’re too young for a 70’s TV reference I’ll simply refer you to I Like Trains who go from strength to strength (in adversity). Witness an act who are currently at the top of their game both as live and recording artists. He Who Saw The Deep is their appropriately titled, latest album. The one they are in town to promote. Casulalties of Beggars restructuring, they financed the record innovatively via the pledge system. It met its target in a heartbeat. Tonight’s show itself has been a sell-out for some while now despite Godspeed You! Black Emperor playing in the next venue. It makes you wonder what a band has to do to be considered viable.

dark times

Brussels legendary Botanique is an old hothouse and one of the most recognizable venues in Belgium. The hall we’re in tonight, the Rotunde is both spacious and intimate. Plus, I Like Trains love playing here which is great news for everyone tonight.
The hall is in fact a kind of dome, although I wonder how many people actually look up and take notice. Imagine the floorspace as a split level, Roman amphitheatre styled, modern standing area. The ceiling is pulled upwards into a bell shape. Nobody seems to care about this though because iLT have everyone’s attention.


They open their set with ‘Sirens’ from the new album. Now I’m not a notepad kind of guy so the pedants will just have to forgive and forget but it feels like they play the whole of He Who Saw The Deep tonight. And you know what! It’s great. On so many levels the new record is a positive move. For one thing, the music has taken a subtlely different direction. Post rock leanings have become post punk leanings. It’s still spacious but it’s less heavy and most importantly in respect of tonight the current material has breathed new life into iLT’s live set. Don’t get me wrong here, I love the old stuff. But in a gig if you follow a ‘Terra Nova’, with a ‘Spencer Perceval’ and then a ‘Rook House…’ etc, it starts to lose impact. These days they can punctuate these epics with fresh, jaunty new material. The whole thing flows better. I am notoriously difficult to satisfy when it comes to live music but I wasn’t bored once tonight.

Speaking of oldies, the word before the show was that an ultra-rare early track might get an outing. A couple of tracks into their set and I’d forgotten about this rumour, forgotten I was supposed to be reviewing a gig even, forgotten…..everything. The performance hooked me. Not for me then any of the usual mind wandering. My achy knee, the bar, even the weirdo next to me trying to complain about photographs – all these thoughts faded into the background. This gig was superb, start to finish.

Simon Fogal

Earlier in the evening the Botanique resonated to the post rock licks of Cecilia Eyes , a band that neither light up nor let down the genre. Everything goes smoothly and by the numbers. They don’t put a foot wrong. Indeed six to eight years ago we’d have been lauding this lot. Today Cecilia Eyes pose a familiar question: How to inject enough individuality into their music in order to raise their heads above the swell of instrumental bands? Nevertheless, post rock always did make more sense live and I enjoyed the Belgians set.

I suppose when iLiKETRAiNS first came onto the scene they were the answer to the above question. They stamped personality all over their music not only by adding vocals but also because of their strange lyrical sources. Early tracks were vignettes – historical case studies in murder, treason and doomed exploration. The newer material is, less biographical, more world weary. Great mistakes of the past are overlooked in favour of real threats to the present and near future.

iLiKETRAiNS may have been a cooler name but I Like Trains are a better band since dropping their case sensitivity .

Martin Doom

Every lick of a ‘Trains’ guitar sounds crystal clear and beautiful tonight. Their chimes fill our bell-shaped auditorium and lift our hearts towards those stars so visible above us. We’re doomed, certainly. All we can do is enjoy it while it lasts.

iLT are enjoying it. David Martin grows more assured, more talkative as the evening progresses. Tonight is a special show for them, he explains, which is why we’re treated to ‘Stainless Steel’ as part of the encore. (The rumour was true) But this terrifying, visceral song is given a slightly surreal setting because the audience has, at that exact moment, taken to batting around a red balloon. Martin tries not to smile, doesn’t quite hide it and in that moment sums up everything that is brilliant about iLT. We’re fucked, the human race, but you’ve got to laugh. Haven’t you? As artists, iLT aren’t precious about their grave image. They don’t take themselves too seriously at all. Decent lot this.

The sun shines out of their behinds

They make mountains out of molehills. They build skyscrapers from Ground Zero. They are seriously good. The new album sees them right back on tracks and this tour is proving they are one of the best live acts around. See them.

“they’ve made mountains out of molehills
let them climb”




As a nice postscript, we’re informed that drummer Simon Fogal’s father has come to see the show. (We managed to click them together afterwards.) If mid-set stormer ‘A Father’s Son’ was a highlight for me tonight I suspect Mr Fogal senior felt something similar but heightened. They should both be very proud.

Team Fogal

I Like Trains

He Who Saw The Deep