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Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

A Brief History Of Love

The Big Pink, Crystal Antlers and Revolvers at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf you had told me that everyone piled into Lee’s Palace on Sunday night wasn’t, in fact, specifically a fan of The Big Pink but of British music from the ’90s in general, I’d have believed it. For much/most/all of the appeal of the London-based duo and their debut A Brief History Of Love centers around how effectively they combine the best bits of shoegaze, Britpop and Madchester into new tunes that are instantly familiar to those who’ve dog-eared a copy or two of Select in their day, but updated to be sleek and danceable by today’s standards.

In being such effective mimics, however, has cost The Big Pink something in the way of their own personality. Perhaps that’s the way it should be, the attention paid to the songs and not the musicians; certainly logical considering that Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell come from a more electronic background, less predisposed to rock star braggadocio. Combine that with the fact that for all it’s rock reference points, the record feels very much like a studio (lab?) project and a kick-ass live show certainly wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

Local openers Revolvers, on the other hand, had no problem establishing their rock credentials. The five-piece certainly shared some musical DNA with the headliners, but you’d have to go back to the blues and rock influences that informed the likes of Spiritualized into something akin to a less drug-addled Brian Jonestown Massacre or groovier (and less droney) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. With two very capable lead vocalists and some hot guitar work, they made a good first impression and though they might do well to play it a little less traditional and stretch out a bit, there’s a very solid foundation to build something great on.

Sounding too traditional was not a problem for Long Beach, California’s Crystal Antlers. Their debut Tentacles was notable as the final new release from the venerable Touch And Go label and their set was a dizzying collision of sounds, bursts of noise butting up against bursts of melody, all propelled by intense percussion, urgent Farfisa organ and strained vocals. On paper, it wasn’t the sort of thing I’d like but to my surprise, I rather enjoyed it. It helped that percussionist Damian Edwards was tremendously entertaining to watch, working his bongos and crash cymbal like man possessed. With dancing.

When a band’s stage setup consists of multiple banks of strobe lights and smoke machines, they’re either intending to deliver a massive rock show or hope that the effects provide the visual stimulation that they can’t. In the case of The Big Pink, it felt like a little of both. For the duration of their set, the stage was enveloped in smoke, strobe and darkness, but perhaps feeling freed by the fact that no one could really see them, singer/guitarist Furze actually showed off no shortage of rock star moves in bounding around the stage, playing dueling axes with bassist Leopold Ross (who himself engaged in some hair-whipping) and generally acting like a kid playing a tennis racket with the stereo turned up.

With Cordell on keys/synths/samples and Akiko Matsuura – who also played on the record – on drums, The Big Pink live had an organic dimension which you didn’t necessarily feel was lacking on the album, but provided an extra and welcome bit of dynamicism in performance. That said, the songs were rendered pretty closely to their studio versions. Not necessarily a problem, though I maintain that some of the backing tracks could have been played live by Cordell rather than just triggered. Slightly more of a problem was the brevity of the set – after a 25-minute delay from the scheduled start time, they clocked in at just 45 minutes and there was no encore. Matsuura came back out after the final song, but it was to wave the expectant crowd off and send us home, not play one final number. Granted, they don’t have a wealth of material to draw from but it’d have been nice to hear the album’s title track. No, I don’t know who would/could have covered Joanne Robertson’s parts. Maybe they could have used a taped track. Okay, maybe it’s better that they didn’t play it.

Panic Manual has a review of the show. OC Weekly has an interview with The Big Pink and MPR a streamable session. Hour.ca talks to Crystal Antlers.

Photos: The Big Pink, Crystal Antlers, Revolvers @ Lee’s Palace – November 29, 2009
MP3: The Big Pink – “Dominos”
MP3: The Big Pink – “Velvet”
MP3: Crystal Antlers – “Andrew”
MP3: Crystal Antlers – “Tentacles”
MP3: Crystal Antlers – “A Thousand Eyes”
Video: The Big Pink – “Dominos”
Video: The Big Pink – “Velvet”
Video: The Big Pink – “Too Young To Love”
Video: Crystal Antlers – “Andrew”
Video: Revolvers – “Rock y Roll”
MySpace: The Big Pink
MySpace: Crystal Antlers

The Quietus has posted the whole of their interview with Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, a portion of which was run last week. Clash has followed suit, posting an excerpt of an interview with Pierce, the complete version of which will be available in the coming days/weeks. The 10th anniversary edition of Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space is out next week. Update: Part one of the Clash interview is now up. And part two.

Former Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser gives a rare interview to Elizabeth Fraser about her new single “Moses” and possible plans for a new album.

Matador has all the details on the new album from Ted Leo & The Pharmacists but all you really need to know is it’s called The Brutalist Bricks, it’s out March 9 and it sounds like this.

MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Even Heroes Have To Die”

A number of shows to look forward to in 2010 were announced yesterday. The Retribution Gospel Choir, rock-oriented project of the 2/3 of Low who are not Mimi Parker, will be at the Drake Underground on January 25, one day before their second album 2 is released. Tickets are $10 in advance.

Editors are following up the North American release of In This Light And On This Evening on January 19 with a North American tour – full date haven’t been announced yet but the Toronto date goes February 16 at the Phoenix. I don’t dislike Evening nearly as much as some, but I suspect I didn’t like the first two records as much as some so perhaps it all evens out. Prague Post has an interview with Editors frontman Tom Smith.

Video: Editors – “Papillon”

Tortoise will be at Lee’s Palace on February 18 in support of this year’s Beacons Of Ancestorship, tickets $18.50.

MP3: Tortoise – “Prepare Your Coffin”
Video: Tortoise – “Prepare Your Coffin”

Finally coming to town for her own headlining show rather than supporting others, El Perro Del Mar will be at hte Mod Club on February 21, tickets $15. Her latest Love Is Not Pop came out in October and Express Night Out has an interview with Sarah Assbring.

MP3: El Perro Del Mar – “Change Of Heart”
Video: El Perro Del Mar – “Change Of Heart”

Their live album having done the job of keeping fans satiated/distracted, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have announced details of a new studio album. Beat The Devil’s Tattoo will be out on March 9 and will be accompanied by a fairly massive world tour – the Toronto stop comes April 1 at The Phoenix.

By : Frank Yang at 8:17 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post6 Responses.
  1. stalevar says:

    the lights at the Big Pink show were just killing my eyes.. so annoying. Pure guys might damage their own vision if they play longer like this.

  2. Bruce says:

    I agree about the Revolvers. My take was similar, a more retro (as in 70s) BRMC, and very solid.

    Yeah, the Big Pink’s set was rather Brief (truth in advertising), but quite enjoyable. The sound mix was for the most part decent, the anthems were anthemic, with just enough added punch in the right places, and I didn’t mind the fact that the band couldn’t be seen much; it was just the way they chose to present themselves (and I wasn’t taking pictures!). But we shouldn’t feel particularly slighted — I did some looking around, and it looks like every stop on the tour got a grand total of 9 songs sans encore (8 from the album plus one cover). It was Lee’s, the ticket price was reasonable, and with one album under their belt there was no right to expect a marathon, I guess. Maybe this was an appetite-whetting tour, and next year’s promised return will build on it.

    Having said that, I also missed hearing “A Brief History of Love”, I find its “Sometimes Always” vibe very appealing. Maybe the invisible drummer could’ve done the other vocal, as she was miked. (I see you weren’t able to get any photos of her, but given she was playing inside a cloud, not surprising.)

    FYI, the Beautiful Noise broadcast of BSP happened (finally) on Sunday night. Recorded it (not home, see above) and just watched it last night. Came off more wild and woolly than I remembered from being there, but it was fun. Unfortunately, The Great Skua and True Adventures didn’t make the cut!

  3. Concert Review: The Big Pink, Lee’s Palace, November 29 | The Panic Manual says:

    […] Chromewaves was also at the show. […]

  4. ricky says:

    bruce…i would LOVE to get that off you.

  5. Scott says:

    Bruce… I ALSOwould love to obtain a copy if that were possible… was at the show too – GENIUS! (negative8ball_at_yahoo_dot_com if possible)… just in case [smirk]

  6. Bruce says:

    ricky/Scott: Sorry to say, but recorded means (cough) VHS. As in tape. To make matters worse, taped on Extended Play mode. Not sure if that does you any good…

    Beautiful Noise has done reruns in the past, so there’s hope it’ll come around again once they’ve gone through the current season.