Monday, December 08, 2008

The Wildhouse, Balcony Bar, Dundee, & Vivian Girls, Captain’s Rest, Glasgow, 5th & 6th December

Visually, The Wildhouse are an odd mix. A stand up female drummer flanked by two male guitarists, one in a black leather jacket with a big black guitar, singing occasionally, fairly static; the other, conspicuously younger than his band mates, spending most of his time facing the back wall or peering into his effects pedals, moonwalking this way and that, transported with the squalling racket he caresses from his guitar. When he does turn around, a Sonic Youth sticker is visible, and the word ‘EVOL’ has been painted on to the strap. He must be the Lee Renaldo of the band. The drummer is clearly their Moe Tucker, but did Moe ever swing to the beat like that? I find it hard to imagine. She fair belts out the simple Velvet Underground / Beat Happening rhythms, singing too, half the time. There’s so much energy in this basic, glorious noise. Thump thump thump. Screeeeeeeeee... . Did I mention the Mary Chain yet? One song is a dead ringer for ‘In A Hole’, but that’s fine. It’s more than fine, it’s exhilarating, it’s driving fast along Interstate whatever (a California one) wearing shades, possibly under bat attack like in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But it is pop too, and I am left wondering with Manic Pop Thrills how come I never heard them before he put them on at Hustlers a fortnight ago.

Vivian Girls come on giggling, with no obvious aesthetic or age differences. They seem like they maybe just graduated from high school and were going to have a gap year or two travelling Europe, then thought, what the hell, let’s throw together a few songs and make a tour out of this. This kind of unstudied approach would be the icing on the cake of a brilliant set of songs, of course (‘we weren’t even trying!’), but I’m not quite convinced that their album cuts it. For a week I was mortally offended by how much it owed to Tiger Trap, then that wore off and it just sounded like a more concise Slumber Party. Who are another band I never quite got – occasionally they would attain the dreamy drowsiness of their name, but too often they just sounded tired. It’s the singing, I think – there is a distance to it, where it could be direct. That quality in a singing voice that draws you immediately in as though to a conversation (listening to Momus’ new album, I noticed that he has this – and you can be sure he knows it). But it’s exactly this kind of subtlety which is bound to matter less at a gig than on record, and so it proves. Vivian Girls are not quite as primal as The Wildhouse, but it’s a close thing, and they cram more tunes in too. Their Mary Chain song of choice is ‘Taste The Floor’ (recycled as ‘Tell The World’), and ‘All The Time’ is vastly more exciting given a live kick. Late in the set they cover The Beach Boys’ ‘Girl Don’t Tell Me’ (big cheer at the announcement, ‘Oh, you’ve heard of them?’), which is obvious and obviously lovely. The banter is good too – the guitarist and bassist do some telepathy, asking an audience member to whisper the name of a US celebrity to the guitarist, who then wiggles her fingers in the air until the bassist proclaims that it is Lindsay Lohan. There is a gasp from the audience member. ‘Do you think they’ve worked out that Lindsay Lohan is the only US celebrity we’ve heard of over here?’ wonders Chris afterwards. A fun show.

Update: an odd visual mix.

10 comments:

brogues said...

A month or so ago I played Tiger Trap's full length back to back with Vivian Girls' and they didn't seem that similar. I had been the one running around calling them the new Tiger Trap and then felt a bit of a dunce when they sounded so different.

Chris said...

So they sounded like them for a bit then stopped for you too? How odd. Do they stop sounding like Slumber Party later on as well?

I will probably come back to the record and love it, I'm just grumpy at the moment.

Anonymous said...

hey
if we gave you an copy of last album "poet:saint" would you care to review it?
mark

Chris said...

Hi Mark, I think we spoke briefly at the gig. By all means, send it along - I'll review it if I like it! Drop me an email (christophermarkfox at yahoo dot com).

Richard said...

"Tell the World" is "Reverence", not "Taste the Floor", surely?

brogues said...

Thanks for reminding me of Slumber Party. Just listening to their first album again and it's wondrous! I love albums with sleepy, distant, aloof, vaguely disappointed vocals. I tend to get scared off by vocals that are too attention seeking and up front.

Chris said...

That is an extremely fine distinction, Richard!

Glad to have been of service, Brogues. I think you're right about vocal styles. It took me ages to 'get' The Aislers Set, too, and Chris' singing in Belle & Sebastian has always been too blank for me. I don't mind sleepy - Kevin Shields' singing is fab - but I mind it when singing doesn't connect you to what the singer feels or is trying to convey. When it is just another instrument.

Anonymous said...

hey chris
yes we spoke briefly
on a borrowed computer until the sales.cant send emails!
can you send a message via our myspace please.
if you hate it and slag it off thats ok.

Anonymous said...

hey chris
did you get the cd
i didnt have your surname
m

Chris said...

Yes, it arrived. Thank you. Sounds good so far. Kinda gentler than live, but only kinda.

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