Monday, 17 May 2010

A Place to Bury Strangers
With Sad Day for Puppets & Japandroids
Moho Live, 14/11/2009
Rating: 4/5

After what can only be described as a nightmare of public transport, rain and a mix up over the time of Doors (Six PM? What?), I arrived at Moho Live for a night of post-rockin’, shoegazin’ noise pop fun. With two weeks’ anticipation behind me, I bound down the stairs to the box office. “High Voltage? You’ve missed Japandroids, mate.” Oops. Consequently, I can’t comment on their set. What I can say is that you should go and listen to their debut, Post-Nothing, and then when they next visit these isles I’ll see you in the crowd.

So, Sad Day for Puppets then. I’m going to begin by pulling the rug out from under the rest of my review and say that the rating above is almost entirely for them. Opening with a new song, they barrelled through a set that took in ‘Last Night’ early on before going out with a bomb- ‘Mother’s Tears’, ‘Marble Gods’ and highlight ‘Shiny Teeth and Sharpened Claws.’ I found myself in the last song singing along childishly to the refrain of “lion’s head and lion’s paws/ shiny teeth and sharpened claws”, absolutely lost in the music. Anna Eklund’s vocals cut through effortlessly, though her fragile stage presence was emphasised by the guitarists dancing around and the bassist doing Pete Townshend impressions, flailing his arm in wild circles. In between songs, there was minimal banter but a lot of smiling, and a nice ‘thank you’ from the bassist, Alex Svenson-Metes. Their set was over all too soon, and I hope to see that the next time they grace our fair city, it will be as the headline act. After they had finished I met Anna, and it was refreshing to see how much she clearly appreciated the few compliments my friend and I paid her band.

Now, contrary to what you have heard, A Place to Bury Strangers are not the loudest live band around. Indeed, they are not even the loudest in New York City, as many claim. Both of these titles rightly belong to The Secret Machines. The difference between the two is where TSM’s debut Now Here Is Nowhere was bone crushingly loud live, at least it was melodic. A Place to Bury Strangers aren’t. Or maybe they are, and I’m an idiot. The thing is, for their entire set I stood there and wondered whether they were geniuses and I was the philistine, or whether it was the other way around. I was convinced that I was missing something, but how? Shoegaze is my genre! I play it in a band, I even wear a Sonic Cathedral ‘Shoegazer’ badge on my guitar strap for chrissakes! This is the one genre I should be qualified to assess on its merits, and yet I was dumfounded. So what to say about APtBS? They play songs that are clearly influenced by Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Joy Division along with the classic Creation bands (My Bloody Valentine et al) and their guitarist plays a Fender Jaguar (this should tell you a lot) while staring at his feet (ditto). I want to describe them as the anti-Interpol, as both bands have taken the Joy Division sound and filtered it through completely different and opposite sets of influences. Until the fifth song in, when inexplicably they play a song whose main riff sounds exactly like RHCP’s ‘Suck My Kiss’, they just sound like a wall of guitar noise set to Joy Division-style drums. In their last song, it does all rather come together, but their set has been too self-indulgent and unmemorable. At the end of the day, this is shoegaze music for people that are ignorant of the other bands in the genre, least of all the recent emergence of young bands like Kyte and School of Seven Bells that have revitalised it.

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