A room-halving red curtain is the first thing that greets a punter curious for some hyped UK neo-psych rock at the Corner tonight. Not an indication of a poor gig, but not a promising sign. The other unexpected sight on entering
is that of copious sponsorship of A Certain Alcoholic Cider of Irish Apples
(aka ACACIA), who has thrown their name in with whatever image UK Indie Rock™ has
these days. Whether seeing a band surrounded by sponsors’ logos vs not seeing
them at all is an arrangement to get used to will be interesting to see.
Someone should write a column about it.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Live Review: TOY, FROWNING CLOUDS
The prevalence of ACACIA on signs, screens, posters, plastic glasses, bottles and the T-shirts of iPad-toting dudes eager to sign punters up to mailing lists makes for some hilarious banter from Frowning Clouds. Cranking through a stellar set, the five-piece are a perfect opening act, and seem instantly comfortable in this curious environment. Boasting tight, reverb-saturated harmonies and riffs that chug like runaway trains they possess vitality rare in a band evoking 60s garage. Songs like My Calendar Girl, Bad Vibes recent 7-inch single Propellers and a track introduced as ‘a song about reverb’ are all excellent examples of how to keep rock and roll fresh. Thin, hollow-body guitars festooned with knobs all cranked to ten, nodding, tousled hair, stomping beats, pithy songs and a sense of humour; this is how it’s done.
To a static ACACIA-sipping crowd shouting into each other’s ears over a deafening Velvet Cave DJ set, TOY arrive with minimal fanfare and low lighting. Blasting the crowd with a consistent force of abrasive guitar chops and insistent beats, it’s hard to deny their power even away from the production brilliance of Dan Carey who guided their sole album to rapturous reviews. Far from being a noodling jam band in thrall to Sonic Boom and the Velvets, there is a ruthless tightness about TOY’s rhythms and squalls.
A wall of expensive cameras line the front row, as the band play as though they’re already as big as their riffs and pedal boards. It’s all down-strokes and nodding heads and it doesn’t need to be anything else when it’s done this well.
Playing their single Left Myself Behind second is indicative of the confidence on display here. Weaving pitch-bent melodies over the thrashing guitars, TOY could be more melodic and pop if they wanted (e.g. My Heart Skips a Beat), but they’re far more interested in a vibe. Making music that implies speed (in both senses), this is some of the best car-driving music since Stereolab, and the crowd respond by staying stock-still. Layers of dark clothes keep us rooted to the spot as Motoring and the blistering Dead and Gone tear at the air.
Naturally, the gig ends in a frantic burst of strumming, kneeling and pedal cranking, but even this (album closing ten-minute epic Kopter) is reined in carefully. No encores, no need, just nine songs and we’re good.