Saturday, March 08, 2008
Getting a chance to see a legend of modern music for $6 was a prospect few kids who were in the know were going to turn down, and as it is, the place is packed with people there who would be happy with a set of Pavement covers. What we get is some new material, mostly of a rambling, jamming nature. "Let's just jam a little bit on E." Says Mr. Stairs after tuning up. "It's going to be lose but we'll have some fun". Mercifully this also means that we have fun too. With the bassist not leaving the note of E till the third song and nothing shifting above mid-tempo, it could be forgiven for being tedious by those not captivated by the fact that "Hey, it's Spiral Stairs! Who cares!".
From the opening Sacred Secret and Maltese Terrier, two of the songs he's intending to record with the backing band he assembled for this tour here in Australia, Stairs' easy charm wins over most of those in the room, and by the time he kicks into a countrified version of the Pavement classic Two States (with a third verse dedicated to his guitarist Julian Wu - honestly how does he wind up on so many stages?), we're forgiving his sloppy guitar playing, the under-rehearsed band, that he sings like a rhythm guitarist and the feeling that the other songs were written in five minutes and worked out before our eyes.
Spiral Stairs is having fun though, a worn out Calexico t-shirt, some funny stories and a shiny Gretsch that he barely pushes; letting the chipper backing band cover for him; seeing someone so respected having this much fun goes a surprisingly long way. Closing track Folk Singer is a high point of this three-guitar-fronted six piece's set with it's odd turns of phrase and ace riffage.
The Spazzys are lovely people, good musicians, fine singers and can write a throwaway piece of pop-punk better than most. Seeing them play though, is very much like going to Hungry Jacks for dinner; you know what you are wanting, you know what you can expect, you pay your $6, you get it and you're satisfied. No surprises, no twists, no dodgy vocal harmony or unexpected bum note - no chance of haloumi instead of a Kraft single. As far as reductionist pop-punk goes these girls are the queens and quite clearly this is not music meant to be thought about this hard, but from opener Don't You Understand onward, The Spazzys dish out songs that sound like they're all covers of 70s punks songs done nicely for this seasons' indie flick, which the (markedly different to SS) audience stonily appreciate. Still, they are and probably always will be fun in a can.