We Are Animal - Telfords Warehouse, Chester - 6 April 2010
The last time I saw one of Owain Ginsberg's bands play live, it wasn't the most edifying experience. It was 2005. BBC Radio Wales had decamped to Rhyl for a Big Buzz Festival. I had organised an event to coincide at Rhyl's Town Hall. The Pipettes were playing; David Wrench was playing; The Heights - formerly Gogz - were playing.
It should have been a bill that would entertain and elevate Rhyl's music lovers and introduce them to some of the excellent sounds from just beyond their doorstep.
The bands played to an audience of, maybe, 20 people. One of those people was a dog we shouldn't have let in. But if that dog had liked what it heard and wagged its tail in between songs, at least our audience mics would have had something to pick up, other than the sound of my reputation plummeting in the estimation of my editor who happened to be one of the 19 other people in the room.
Unless you stick local bands on, you're on a hiding to nothing. The notion that bringing excellent music from outside a town into a town - bands that the populace wouldn't otherwise have heard - held no water in Rhyl. It doesn't hold much water anywhere outside the metropolitan centres. It's a lesson that I've had to learn the hard way. Anyway...
Owain was in The Heights. The Heights were riding the crest of a wave that would have put anything generated by the wave machine in the local Sun Centre to shame. They'd been signed to Best Before Records. Their debut EP's had been very favourably received and there was "a buzz" about the imminent debut album.
In the echoey, empty wasteland of Rhyl Town Hall that sunny July day, they went on first and played with the requisite rock 'n' roll attitude and a sackful of memorable enough tunes. Despite the yawning gap where an audience should have been I remember being impressed. "They're going to do well," I thought. Of course, that thought sealed their fate. The dream fractured for The Heights. The name became something of an ironic joke.
But you can't keep real talent and spirit down. Owain Ginsberg retreated back to his home village just outside Caernarfon, threw a home studio together and then - over the next couple of years - recorded a series of excellent demos as Get Out Clause, drawing admiration not only for the quality tuneage but for his persistence even if I thought his obdurate optimism was misplaced. It's enough to get one chance in this industry... especially when the bulldozers are moving in and flattening most of what is left of that industry's edifices.
However Owain isn't the type to give up so easily. And news that his current band, We Are Animal, are going to release a single on the legendary Too Pure label (at the start of June), came as no real surprise.
Raise the Alarm is a new, bi-monthly night at Telfords Warehouse, Chester. Yes, it's the venue I DJ in. But it's also a venue that is happy to support good, new Welsh bands. Look Raise the Alarm up on Facebook. If you get the gig, it's a good one.
We Are Animal slouch onto the stage looking like an identikit of any male dominated alternative rock band of the last decade. A bit Kings of Leon, part Arctic Monkeys, maybe - with the synth stage left - a touch MGMT. But the laziness of those comparisons becomes more obvious to me the longer they play. They are no evolutionary stride forward for rock, for sure. But the cavernous reverb on the guitars, the scuzziness of the synth and the motorik beat that drives most of this forward are much more interesting than the de rigeur image suggests.
These are clever, subtly compulsive songs that twist around irresistible riffs. Hunting, in particular, sounds like a woozy assimilation of all the best bits of Kings of Leon with one of Super Furry Animals' multi dimensions.
That single 1268 is one of the least interesting of the songs they play speaks volumes for the insidious excellence of their forthcoming debut album, Idolise.
By the time they finish with Animals we're all convinced. Second chances rarely sound this good.