Monday, September 21, 2009
They’re a fun loving lot those indie kids. Tonight’s show, third in a series of Wednesday-night residencies for the headliners, has a ‘80s beach party’ theme, following on from the ‘Bad Jumper’ and ‘Pirates’ themes of previous weeks, (next week is ‘Freaks and Geeks and Matheletes’), which allows many to look decidedly Miami Vice/John Hughes. Thankfully, this mixed bag of fashion sensibility doesn’t get in the way of the uniformly excellent music.
Darren Sylvester, recipient of uniformly glowing reviews for his eponymous debut album and several dozen ‘but where did he come from? / He just appeared from nowhere’-type comments, is on spectacular form. A shimmering glow settles over everything he does. Perfect equations of delay and reverb glue his sequenced backing tracks and Neil Halsted-like guitar washes together, allowing his Brian Ferry-like sneer to arch beautifully. When Phil Spector slides seamlessly into Michael we know we’re in the presence of something very special. THIS is what David Bowie should have done after Let’s Dance. Diaries flick open at the mention of his forthcoming album launch. CDs sell out.
The Zebras bring things back from electro wonderland to a prettier, more manageable here and now. Ever the master craftsman of melody and chord, chief Zebra Jeremy Cole makes songwriting look so effortless it’s slappable. Seeming to have a different lineup with each gig, tonight’s show sees Cole bringing on the musicians one at a time which suggests a certain recklessness about the songs’ rendering, but you get the feeling these songs could be played as 8-bit ringtones and they’d still work. The closing track, which Cole refers to as ‘Newish One’ is a particular highlight.
Firmly embracing the night’s theme, plastic hibiscuses and their love of keyboards (‘it’s a PT-30 Casio if anyone is wondering’ calls out drummer/key pusher Neil Erenstrom), The Motifs are instantly more lucid and attention grabbing than in previous incarnations. Skewering expectations with songs that are, by their standards, progtastically long (i.e. actually over 3 minutes) it’s a small and joyous revolution. Handclaps and warm harmonies have always been part of the Motifs stable but here they coalesce tighter and seem more integrated into the song rather than a rhythmic afterthought for nervous hands and empty throats. Backwards still sounds fantastic in it’s 1:10 glory, but it’s the newer songs like Little Things that tell you the kids are growing up just fine.