Ding Dong Lounge
In the five years since the Morning After Girls (aka the MAGs) left these shores for New York, economies have crumbled, styles have risen and fallen, yet the band have remained untouched. Though lineups have shifted, the core duo of Sacha Lucashenko and Marty Sleeman ensure the aesthetic remains the same. Time has, if anything strengthened and honed the band’s sound into one that transcends their oft-touted influences and renders them one of the best rock bands in the country. Ten years on the job will do that, and tonight’s show stands as the most recent proof.
In lieu of a support band the audience (most of whom seem to be ex-MAGs members) check their smart phones, push their hair out of their eyes and sip pints. No one seems under 30 and music, it’s safe to say, is taken very seriously here. Even as the room fills to near capacity, the mood is cautious and chatty.
The gig slides smoothly into action; incense is lit, soundscapes play over the PA and the band arrive to little fanfare. The spacey riff for opening song Corruption pulls attention toward the band and for the rest of the show, it’s hard to look away. The sound is huge; the drums punish, basslines swerve and buckle, the guitar riffs are singed with distortion. So far, so neo-psychedelic, but where the MAGs really show prowess and progress is with the vocal attack. Sleeman and Lucashenko’s voices blend, twist and spar against each other, giving an acrid edge to the warmth of their guitars and the keyboards of vital talent Johnny Livewire. Never sounding this powerful or coruscating, Death Processions, and the 90210-featured Alone render the audience a noisy, cheering mass. Though the band never acknowledge it, a triumphant homecoming is unfolding.
Psych-rock has long been the realm of lazy, effects-reliant guitarists who never need learn a barre chord to sound like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and its current faddishness is no doubt partly down to this simplicity. Conversely, it’s one of the hardest genres in which to sound individual and inspire affection. However the MAGs are smarter and their songs better constructed than many of their peers, national or international, and there is no such bland chording here. Older songs like Shadows Evolve and The General Public get whoops of recognition while newer ones sound even better; layered, powerful and immediate, they couldn’t be written by anyone else. The encore of a blistering Who is They? and the near-pastoral version of There’s A Taking leave the audience far too happy for a group of people wearing so much black.
Though there’s no danger of the group disappearing into the fresh batch of bands pushing the guitar-chord-as-crashing-wave sound, the MAGs have made their biggest step toward perfecting this oft-abused style and with news of a new album due later this year, it’s good to have them back.