Friday, June 26, 2009
NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB
Sometimes a sense of majesty is accentuated by being presented with humility. Deliberately or not, The Zebras are masters at this. Such is their love of guitar pop that their melodies bounce and most songs require three guitars to play. While the chords are chunky and the drumming crackles, the featherweight vocal melodies keep the songs ephemeral enough to let them slip inside your consciousness with barely an attempt at being catchy at all, a quality that clearly carries more weight in the northern hemisphere where they played Indietracks Festival with tonight’s headliners.
The crowd gently swells as The Crayon Fields take to the flower-bedecked stage with their usual quiet aplomb, tonight dedicating How Loved You Are to the opening act. You Could Wind Up Anywhere begins their set; yet another taste of their soon-to-be-released second album, which comprises the bulk of tonight’s songs. All The Pleasures Of The World the album’s title track comes and goes and with a summer’s freshness, the ghostly vocals and skeletal guitar lines lent muscle by subbing bassist Tim Piccone and the sylvan thud of drummer Neil Erenstrom. One wonderful quality of Geoff O’Connor’s songs is their timelessness. Their brevity means that Choir Of Tiny Boys is a delight even if, as much of the audience has, you’ve heard it 50 times or more. Chris Hung’s breathlessly fluid guitar, previously literally as well as figuratively hidden behind his keyboard and glockenspiel, shines brightly tonight, with its Feelies-esque dry tone and Verlaine-like elegance. Timeless is iridescent, Birds of Paradise sparkles and the crowd are thrilled.
Tonight’s Norwegian headliners are a revelation. All but replacing their image as twee Francophilic revisionists, we get Je Suis Animal’s Paris of the 1930s dragged into Cologne of the 1970s. The krautrock beats, guitar-heavy near-instrumental tracks like opener Sparkle Spit and gargantuan centrepiece Beginning of Time come as welcome Stereolab/Electrolane-tinged surprises. The striking image of singer Elin Grimstad, looking for all the world like the silent movie star she plays in the filmclip to their single The Mystery of Marie Roget, is reinforced by her fiendish guitar playing. Indifferent Boy, Hôtel Electrique and new single Painted In My Face are smile-spreading shoegaze brilliance. Bassist Merete Hald plays over-the-neck one fingered bass, balancing the complex melodies shed from guitar and keys-player Anthony Barratt and 12-string Rickenbacker wizardry from Matt Bagguley. Encoring with the gentle Rosseau World, Grimstad is almost apologetic for it’s quietitude, though by this stage the audience are willing to go wherever they’re lead. This Sunday, meet the worthy Kings and Queens of Castletones.