Posts Tagged ‘psychedelia’

LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY – Day Two

June 4, 2013

Day two commences with math-pop heroics courtesy of Vasco da Gama. Difficult to dislike a band with such fluid mastery of musicianship, especially when they’re so goddam modest about it. There’s frequent nods to The Dismemberment Plan and Dischord Records, but for all their clever arrangements, there’s a lingering suspicion that they’re a pop band at heart. Winning choruses mesh perfectly with the frenetic fretwork of guitarist Chris Lynn, leaving early evening revellers dazed but excited.

It’s a shame that the equally energetic Hands don’t attract a bigger crowd – their forthcoming Synaesthesia album ranks amongst the most immediately catchy collections to bolt from the Kill Rock Stars stable. They bounce adorably and ecstatically around the stage, with the soaring pop melodies of songs like ‘Trouble’ suggesting there’s even better to come from a band who’ve really got this ‘hooks’ thing nailed. Keep an eye out; they could well be soundtracking your summer.

Suitably cheered, we head to The Kazimier for something a little grittier, and Bad Meds are happy to oblige. Something of a local supergroup, the band includes Vasco da Gama drummer Dave Kelly and Hot Club de Paris’ Paul Rafferty amongst their number, and as such the curious cognoscenti are out in force. Theirs is a fun and frantic take on the skate-kid hardcore of early Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, replete with knowing banter (“Has anyone been signed yet? That’s the ultimate aim of Sound City, isn’t it?”) and a gloriously sludgy cover of ‘It’s Grim Up North’. Instant favourites.

Meanwhile, up the road, the much-hyped TOY decorate the Anglican Cathedral with their mountainous noise and Cousin it haircuts – given the time they’ve probably seen their music described via the shoegaze cliché ‘sonic cathedrals’, you gotta wonder if they ever imagined they’d actually play in one. As it turns out, the venue suits their sound rather well, as woozy riffs pile into each other atop a motorik rhythm section. Some of the more subtle chord changes of ‘Colour’s Running Out’ feel a little lost in the melee, but it’s a small price to pay to have your hearing blown out so magnificently.

The dashing Dan Croll is somewhat easier on the ear, and his take on classic pop songsmithery feels positively heart-warming. An evident knack for a hummable tune is enough to make every song feel instantly familiar, almost masking the dextrous subtleties of the band behind him. More of this winsome loveliness please.

The day’s final trek to the Cathedral feels, ludicrously, like the furthest Gigwise has ever had to walk, but The Walkmen are more than worth it. As dapper as ever, the band’s newfound maturity sees the majority of the set pitching for a rather more windswept approach than the energised stress of old favourites like ‘The Rat’, and it suits ‘em pretty neatly. Difficult to believe that they’re more than a decade into their career when their manifest enthusiasm still feels so fresh.

It’s been a pretty stellar day thus far, and Gigwise begins to worry that something is bound to suck at some point. And so we come to the tipsters’ faves Savages – on hand to prove that if you’re gonna be bummed out, it should owe a debt to their own high levels of menace and intensity – they’ve drawn plenty of comparisons to Souxsie & The Banshees, but the taut funk of their basslines owes just as much to the hypertension of The Bush Tetras, while Gemma Thompson’s strafes of white-hot atonality flash across the stage like electric storms. Every song drips with vitality and purrs venomously: once bitten, you’re lost to ‘em forever. Band of the weekend? Don’t bet against it.

Melody’s Echo Chamber present a much more relaxed affair, as their dizzy psychedelic alt pop proves to be much less acrid. Their delicacy serves as a neat counterpoint to their tendency towards off-kilter shonkiness, making them lovably delirious in the best sense possible.

Over at Leaf, The Still Corners seem to be struggling with technical difficulties that delay their set by a full half hour. When their reverb-drenched indiepop finally gets going, there’s a palpable sense of relief, albeit underpinned by a sense of irritation that it’s taken this long to get going. As a result, Gigwise ends up at the back of the queue for Thee Oh Sees, whose sweat-drenched set creates such demand that the rickety old Kazimier struggles to cope. There are angry scenes as waiting punters realise they won’t get to see the show, but what we eventually manage to catch amounts to a furious blast of psyched-out garage rock. Bodies spill over the monitors as the heaving moshpit flings itself back and forth with reckless abandon; sweat-sodden riffs riding hip-swaying basslines that pummel the guts and spill out the messy yards of intestine within. You can’t help but love a good rock show.

Speaking of which, that’s precisely how Future Of The Left opt to close out the day’s events, spraying a rowdy 2am crowd with gallons of molten riffage and barbed witticisms. The somewhat inebriated audience dances, screams and collapses into dazed heaps on the ground, surrendering to the forceful rage of the band… but that’s nothing compared to what happens when FOTL unleash two classics by frontman Falco’s previous outfit Mclusky. ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ sees the first outbreak of pure euphoria, while the bon mots of ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ amount to a twisted singalong with everyone’s shit well and truly lost. They close with a cover of Andy Kaufman’s infamous ‘I Trusted You’ – a helluva song and bona fide contender for greatest piece of performance comedy ever devised. Which is as decent a summation of this Cardiff quartet’s modus operandi as you could possibly desire. Bed time approaches – not with a whimper, but a full-on roar.

(Originally published by Gigwise, 06/05/2013)

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PERE UBU / VARIETY LIGHTS – Liverpool, Eric’s, 24/04/2013

June 4, 2013

Those eyes. Tiny black holes. Stare into ‘em too long and you start to feel yourself ebbing away, drifting into zen-like surrender to the magic of the sound. Then David Baker blinks suddenly, as if emerging from a trance, and you realise Variety Lights are performing subtle spells that leave you utterly bound to their dark magic. On record, their warped electronic rattle is disorientating, but transposed to a live set it’s earth-shattering. There’s a borderline gothic edge to their compellingly odd psychedelia, making it both grandiose and eerie; it’s the product of an imagination acceding to its fondest ideals. Songs like ‘Starlit’ and the majestic ‘Feeling All Alone’ reverberate with skronking synth and an unnerving sense of wonder, while guitarist Adam Franklin (yup, he of Swervedriver) drives ‘Establishment’ into a dizzy wall of vertiginous twang – like a Chris Isaak song left on a radiator. Variety Lights are something very special indeed.

It’s a tough act to follow, but then again, Pere Ubu’s David Thomas has never been one to care what other folks might think. Decked out in beret and braces, he explains that we are merely spectres inhabiting his dream world – you can’t really argue with that, so let’s go along with it. The landscape mapped out by his singular psyche is freakishly, irresistibly colourful; the taut funk of ‘Love Love Love’ is punctured by irascible sheets of robotic noise, while the four-note cycle of ‘Mandy’ finds itself repeatedly pounded into glistening new shapes over the course of seven minutes. 35-year-old classic ‘The Modern Dance’ appears almost nonchalantly in the middle of the set, igniting the dancefloor and reminding us that Thomas’ vision has always been uniquely focused. This is art that’s beautifully dense and overpoweringly complex, but still gives your tail-feather a darn good shake. Incredible.

(Originally published by The Fly, 01/05/2013)

BLANK REALM – Go Easy

June 4, 2013

“Will you clean up my mess again?”

Ok, so we know Richard Hell was talking nihilism. His fabled Blank Generation stood in staunch opposition to the failed idealism of the hippy dream; bathed in defeat and ruin; recognising that if it’s all for naught, you may as well do what the f*ck you want.

He was saying “get me out of here” before he was even born, although he’s still kicking around, so what would he think of 2013’s broken-down, end-of-days mindset? We’re beyond mere generational talk here: pop culture has eaten and regurgitated itself so many times that all that’s left to do is re-arrange the excremental remains in as many different patterns as we can. See what sticks – hey, guess what? Shit does. There are no new ideas, we’re constantly told. No new sounds. No new grooves. The new is fucking gone, and so often it feels like vitality and focus have gone with it – we inhabit an amorphous, flaccid blob of culture, with no defining qualities except blurred flashes of what went before. Welcome to the blank realm.

“Guess I’ve been acting kinda strange”

One of the central tenets of postmodernism was that there were no new ideas – which means that pop music in particular has been trapped in a postmodernist nightmare since the revivalist culture of the ’90s kicked in. It’s been (pseudo-)intellectualised and cemented into such an institutionalist clusterfuck that there’s no longer debate to be had – when received wisdom dominates, it swiftly wears thin, so the logical option is to tear away at it. Of course, when everything’s torn and splintered into miniscule subgenres, there’s no longer a dominant culture. Everything is murky and unclear.

Now, I’m not saying that this is what Brisbane quartet Blank Realm had in mind when they made this record (in all likelihood, they were driven by the same primal urge that drives most kids to whack guitars at volume – the insistent desire to make noise). There’s nothing high-concept or era-defining about this collection of spacey noisepop. What I am saying is that they’re a pretty accurate reflection of the age in which we live; the basic thrills of, like, whatever, hidden behind clouds of woozy fug. Narcotic yawns hidden behind guitars that sound like sloppy shit one minute, and an imploding cosmos the next. Dismissive loucheness, shrugging off the complexity of life in favour of knowing, wilfully-dumb slogans. The need to thrill with everything, powered by a recognition that it means nothing. Plus a flat refusal to give a solitary fuck.

Rhetorical question: how many fucks do you have to give for pop music to mean anything anyway?

“Gotta go to school today/Gotta learn that stupid shit/Soon as I can get a car to drive/Then I’m gonna be done with it”

Go Easy is Blank Realm’s first album, and it’s really good. Drenched in the reconstructionist rock’n’roll of Royal Trux, it veers from gaping spacerock chasms – all cheap weed and broken effects pedals – to perky, post-punk pop. They lack the studio mechanics of Herema’n’Hagerty, but the desire to rock out scuzzily is all present and correct, with equal emphasis placed on committing to the energy and surrendering to the drone. Hear the way ‘Cleaning Up My Mess’ stomps mightily through its snotty chorus before nodding out to a lazily blissful riff. “Girl, will you clean up my mess again?” Literal mess? The mess of sound? The mess they’ve made of life? That’s not answered, but it plays out as an admission of male ineffectuality as much as a terse refusal to resolve a situation. The title track is even more wracked and triumphantly lost: guitars stutter and start; uncertain and sounding thoroughly sick of it all. Meanwhile there’s tracks like ‘Acting Strange’ which pick our ears apart with disco damage and a barrage of disorienting effects, rebounding chaotically and majestically between speakers until you feel like you’re falling off the fucking pavement.

See, that’s the thrill of pop in this day and age. It doesn’t have to mean anything. It rarely does. But sometimes something comes along that seems to revel in nonchalant noisemaking; gives in to the din and just is. Effortlessly, thrillingly, brilliantly, Go Easy does that in spades. Blank Realm? I’ll take it. (8/10)

(Originally published by The Line Of Best Fit, 28/02/2013)