RADAR, live review...
Rams' Pocket Radio, TuNeYaRdS, Girls Names
What's the difference between listening to music in your house, and seeing it in a live context? Well, aside from the fact that you can't have tiny paper replicas of the musicians in your hands at a gig, the main point would be one of connection. And over the course of the evening, we are treated to three very different attempts at connection, with varying degrees of success.
Bubbling under for quite some time now, Girls Names have been causing quite a stir in certain parts of the population, whipping hipsters into a frenzy with their Vice Magazine sponsored antics. The Speakeasy seems a dauntingly large venue for this, and true enough almost from the outset, the band struggles to project their lo-fi surf pop sound, meeting a wall of indifference. In many respects, the sound of Girls Names is not really meant for mass consumption, drawing from cultish luminaries such as Beat Happening and Felt, but in this context the waves of reverb and artifice the band have cloaked their songs in only serve to obscure the pop hooks lurking at the heart of these songs.
Rather than create the air of enigma they're so desperately trying to cultivate, Girls Names only succeed in looking bored. By the end of their set, the band seem ready to expose their claws and unleash any number of hummable indie-pop classics, suggesting that it won't be too long before more people start paying attention, but whether they want the attention or not is a different question entirely.
In complete and utter contrast, TuNeYaRdS immediately demand attention, pounding tribal drums, thick bass, and a mass of looped vocals spilling forth into the crowded confines of the Speakeasy. Consisting of one-woman-band, Merrill Garbus (joined occasionally by a bassist), TuNeYaRdS almost instantly call to mind the funky Afro-centric explorations of The Tom-Tom Club, whilst simultaneously spiralling forth in a million other directions. This is truly arresting music, with almost everyone present completely captivated by Garbus' wild-eyed stare, as she pummels a drum, thrashes at a ukulele, or urges us to chant along with her. The physical force of her voice, which alternates between a husky bark, an exotic animal noise, and a sweet croon, seems to be drawing everyone closer and closer, and by the end, there's an enormous sense of goodwill in the room.
If TuNeYaRdS succeed in creating an atmosphere of playful creativity, Rams' Pocket Radio shatter it with a sense of high melodrama, piano and bass swelling up on a crest of drums and sweeping guitar. Peter McCauley's intimate song writing clashes with the bombastic arrangements of the songs, with all the drama playing out on the stage. In a sense, whilst Rams' Pocket Radio are adept at projecting a full-on performance, perhaps some of the most affecting moments come when they ease off a little, and let the emotional core of the songs shine through. Perhaps this wouldn't have worked in this context, but it speaks volumes that the young songwriter is called back for an encore at the end of the evening, and sits down on his own behind the piano, baring his soul one more time.
It would seem that this particular radio has an absolutely perfect connection.