Northcote Social Club
Though it’s been a while since the storming World Without Men single, Jessica Says (aka cellist/vocalist/songwriter Jessica Venebles) is such a fascinating artist that a pause for reinvention and rumour of a new album makes you wonder not only where she’ll go next but confident she’ll arrest attention when she does. As it turns out this most compelling of vocalists has moved from the intimate fragility of her work so far and confidently into the world of icy electropop. Now fronting a four-piece made up of singer Emma Russock, brother violinist Nick and synth/laptop operator Aaron Lam, the set is laden with glistening, reverb-soaked paeans to psychological obsession, twisted love and generally being extremely assertive. It’s a stunning set, and songs like Xanax Baby, Queen of the Night and the closing Rock Candy suggest a stellar album in the offing.
Fresh from blowing minds with their video for recent single Adriana, Montero open their set with Clear Sailing/Alpha World City #2, silencing and flummoxing early-comers. A Montero gig is very much dependant on the mood of frontman and songwriter Bjenny Montero and tonight sees him in ‘slightly unhinged’ mode, which means bug eyed stares, strange interactions with an optical fibre lamp and some coruscating vocalising. The synth-pop bounce of Mumbai follows before a bizarrely faithful version of Max Merrit and the Meteors’ Slippin’ Away From Me. These soul-pop musical roots ground the final two songs Ya Gotta Be Alone and You’re Gonna Make a Monkey Out of Me, both of which follow the Montero default move; a tender piano intro, a killer drum fill and some scorching 70s psych pop.
Though the Little Red elephant in the room is never mentioned, it exerts its influence in strange ways. New Gods consist of singer/guitarist Dominic Byrne and guitarist Adrian Beltrame of Little Red, synth player Dale Packard of Ground Components and bassist Richard Bradbeer of Eagle and the Worm, so the band are, unsurprisingly, incredibly well rehearsed. Their songs are big on hooks and tight on harmonies, and the opening few almost perfunctory in their delivery. Byrne is actually apologetic for the few moments that stray from this script; a ‘folk dirge that isn’t depressing’ Wonders of the World is hastily pushed into the past once finished, the brief and mellow 10000 Miles with its harmonica is laughed off as soon as its over, and a saxophone-lead free jazz moment is dismissed as ‘just us fucking around’, but it’s these deviations that are the most interesting moments. Byrne seems far smarter than he is able to express in this context, as the Bill Hicks-dedicated Eyes of Love hints. It’s not until the final few songs (Skipping Stone, Day Off Work and the ‘medley of our hit’ On Your Side) that the guitars cut loose and the clean, choppy, mid-paced fare is left behind and we can see what the band as a true combination of the talent therein. Fronting two bands beloved of our national youth broadcaster is admirable, but I’m betting Byrne’s best is to come.