Monday, December 7, 2009


Friday, May 23, 2008 
The Toff in Town

Five-piece World's End Press have, if nothing else, been a remarkably consistent band. Consistently relying on a sort of Talking Heads-meets-TV On The Radio density to detract from the numbingly repetitive chords that prop up their songs. There is a LOT going on, and individually parts are interesting, well-thought through and work well. If you focus just on the melodies, the drumming or the ceaseless wall of bass coming from their out-of-place bassist, then the music is fine. It's when you listen to it together that it stops being Talking Heads and becomes more Joe Jackson fronting Wang Chung. Which is odd, because it should work, but the density of tom-heavy drumming dynamic-free bass and keyboard chords fills out a suffocating sound that is further burdened by faceless songwriting and formulaic rhythmic shifts.

Which is nothing compared to the excruciatingly painful experience of sitting through the first half of Cuthbert and the Nightwalkers' set. A name that long befits a stage this crowded and with eight obviously talented and well-dressed individuals, it's odd that we can't raise a smile. Finally there is a band playing indie-pop that doesn't 'get' it. Instead we get smug over-acting theatre students, half a band that could be fired without detracting from the songs at all and mannered 'dance' moves which means that by the time Richie Cuthbert sings 'I'm a lot like you / My favourite colour is blue' you want to scream 'NO!!! Please NO!!' and overact as much as his co-vocalist in her Baz Luhrmann-burlesque getup does all night. 'Marmalade is my favourite spread' she coos; it's agonising. The better parts of the set are those that reduce half the band to handclapping and allow the songs to breathe a little. Smokin' In The Basement is a great upbeat B&S-style rocker that lets bassist Brenden push things a little. Closing duo Pogues-esque song Maggie's Health and the literal Big Band are rousing tunes that see the band joined by some of Institut Polaire, and sound all the better for it.

Another eight-piece take to the stage and it's here that the value of arrangement shines. IP do this better than most, not a person is wasted and it's only occasionally that the three guitarists play the same chords. Amply helped out by a West Australian contingent (that seem to have amply helped themselves to the bar) the band are clearly on peak form, with trumpet, violin and keyboard fleshing the songs out beautifully. Highlights from their EP (and there are quite a few) are matched by new songs; a glorious potential album-opener To New Holland and it's Decemberists'-esque segue, plus a great rendition of Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. 'I wish I'd written that' says singer Eric Hecht, he needn't worry, the following The Flora and The Fauna is a wonderful minor epic showcasing his impressionistic lyrical turns. As if to bring home what a great show this is, the drunk couple dancing up the front are soon joined by three more couples, and eventually the entire venue, at the behest of Eric and his sidekick Elliott Brannen, so by the end we are all on their feet dancing and clapping along to a crowded stage for closing song Super!. Fantastic stuff.

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