Monday, August 04, 2008
The Wave Pictures / A Classic Education @ The Borderline, 30 July 2008
It was about time. My love for The Wave Pictures has been well-documented on the pages of this blog, but somehow I've never quite got round to seeing them live. It's not like Wave Pictures gigs are a rare thing either - they've always got a packed live calendar, and have probably played every small venue in London. But I've been absent from all of these until last week. And in a way, it was worth the wait.
Before I got to see Bethnal Green's finest, there was another band in the way - one that I was also fairly keen to check out.
A Classic Eduction, to my uneducated, Anglo-centric ears are a rare thing. A band based in Bologna, Italy, with songs in English sung by a Canadian frontman. This slight exoticism may give them an advantage over the scores of other new-band related emails I sift through every day, but happily they're a lot more than just an unusual set-up. By the time I saw their support slot, I had already warmed to some of the songs on their debut EP, without them really lodging in my mind. But that's fine because live, they were given bit of extra muscle and depth.
There are plenty of references to spot within ACE's songs. Stylistically, there's a healthy dose of Arcade Fire, with their outfits, the collective singing round mics and perhaps rather bravely, the band's a capella procession round the venue before going onstage. Musically, there are touches of Montreal's finest, but there's also some classic British indie as well, with nods to Wedding Present style urgent guitar playing, new wavey Interpol-like stylings and some classic shoegazey guitar effects. My friend Dan thought that there was a bit of dEUS in there too, but knowing next to nothing about that Belgian band, I can't say for sure. But they're more than a sum of their influences. There was a lot going on up on stage, and most importantly they write good songs - set closer Stay, Son in particular stood out as a tune that sounds comfortingly familiar, even if you've never heard it before. They must be doing something right.
mp3: A Classic Education - Stay, Son
So to The Wave Pictures. One of the things that struck me after only a couple of songs, is that their resolutely lo-fi sound on record masks the fact that they're actually great musicians. Franic Rozycki plays a mean bass, Jonny Helm hits the drums in fine style and David Tatersall has the makings of a bit of a guitar hero. He's perhaps necessarily reined in on the band's recorded output, but live he likes to cut loose a little, without ever crossing the line into cheesy guitar solo territory. Now virtuosity does not always good music make, but in the sweaty confines of the Borderline, it worked perfectly well. Unsurprisingly the songs come across even better live than on record with a beefed-up sound and guitar workouts only enhancing Tatersall's wry lyrics.
The other thing that struck me early on is that The Wave Pictures are not a cool band. Nor are they ever likely to be. They have the wrong clothes, haircuts and sound. They're not part of a media-friendly scene and they're unlikely ever to date Heat-friendly babes. They've not got any 'tastemakers' queuing up to proclaim them the next big thing, though maybe that's just as well because Tatersall and Rozycki have been playing together for ten years now. However, they do seem destined to be a cult outfit in the same way that their mates Darren Hayman and the Herman Dune boys have. Whatever the case, the quality of their music demands some sort of wider audience, and in a fair world, far more people would take them to heart.
The set list was short (only 10 songs) but they crammed in some recognisable favourites and a few new ones, which is relevant since they've got a new EP out today. A great gig then, and I'm going to get my act together to see them a lot sooner next time.
mp3: The Wave Pictures - Just Like a Drummer
mp3: The Wave Pictures - Cassius Clay
Buy the new EP Just Like a Drummer (appropriately featuring the "good looking" Jonny Helm on the cover) AND the ace album Instant Coffee Baby from Rough Trade. Or download from emusic. A Classic Education's First EP is available from their website or Rough Trade.