Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
The Bold Arrow Of Time
Tame Impala and Yuck at The Phoenix in Toronto
Frank YangThe city’s music critics had to be a little disappointed upon arriving at the Phoenix on Sunday night and seeing signs informing them that Chicago’s Yawn had cancelled their appearance because of car trouble in Montreal – after all, had their set been anything less than impressive, the review would have written itself. But the opportunity to be simultaneously succinct and lazy still presented itself with London’s Yuck, not that it was needed.
I saw the quartet back at SXSW, where they were one of the festival’s buzz bands thanks to the made-in-a-world-where-Bandwagonesque-trumped-Nevermind melodic fuzz pop of their self-titled debut and, perhaps looking a little too firmly through the lens of a photographer, wasn’t impressed. For an outfit riding a surge of interest that most bands would give a limb for, they seemed exceedingly bored with the whole thing – and this was on the very first night of a week packed with shows. But that didn’t give them enough credit for how they sounded, which was pretty great – any perceived indifference didn’t apply to their playing, which mitigated any disappointment in their lack of stage diving.
In any case, it seems that the time on the road has done the band a lot of good in pretty much every department. They still seem to have a running contest amongst themselves to see who can look the most expressionless but there were a few earnest if awkward attempts at audience banter and in performance, they weren’t inanimate, allowing themselves to bob up and down with the beat or wander around the stage – singer Daniel Blumberg even contributing a few convincing screams where called for. Musically, the songs have evolved some from their recorded versions, incorporating extended musical segues or in the case of set closer “Rubber”, devolving into a sludgy dirge (meant in a mostly positive sense). But it’s the songs that are Yuck’s greatest strengths, so filled with hooks and melodies that owe much to the ’90s but are also timelessly pop. And unlike some of their distortion pedal fetishist contemporaries who use the noise to bury rather than buoy, Yuck sound almost hi-fi in their sonic clarity. Almost. But still plenty fuzzy.
Australian headliners Tame Impala also know their way around a pedalboard, as evidenced by last year’s psych-rock standout debut Innerspeaker, but clarity is not at the top of their mission statement. In wrapping frontman Kevin Parker’s voice in a distinctive echo-reverb, they effectively conjure up the ghosts of Barrett-era Pink Floyd but grafted onto big guitar and synth riffs and propelled by massive, grooving rhythms, Tame Impala are very much their own beast. Most importantly, though, they brings songs to the table – something that’s too often overlooked by acts in this particular niche of rock’n’roll, more concerned they are with sonic mayhem than actual substance. But armed with well-crafted, melodic and memorable songs, Tame Impala are the complete psych-rock package and even with just one album to their name, they set the standard.
And they put on a pretty terrific show, too. Their hour-fifteen long, encore-less set showcased their ability to marry hooks with grooves and jam without sounding jammy, always keeping focus and never losing the plot. A particular highlight was their cover of Massive Attack’s “Angel”, which introduced some darkness to their sound by maintaining the mystery and menace of the original. I’m also used to bands of their ilk performing in the dark and aloofly preferring to let their music speak for them and while they hardly busted out a light show, the oscilloscope on acid projected behind them offered some extra visual interest. The set was also punctuated with friendly banter, though it got a touch odd when they announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed (to confused applause) and dedicated buoyant instrumental “Jeremy’s Storm” to him, which they apologized for afterwards, lest anyone think it was in tribute. An odd and memorable moment in a show that was plenty memorable enough already.
Photos: Tame Impala, Yuck @ The Phoenix – May 1, 2011
MP3: Tame Impala – “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”
MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”
MP3: Yuck – “Georgia”
MP3: Yuck – “Automatic”
MP3: Yuck – “Daughter”
MP3: Yuck – “Coconut Bible”
Video: Tame Impala – “Expectation”
Video: Tame Impala – “Lucidity”
Video: Tame Impala – “Solitude Is Bliss”
Video: Yuck – “Get Away”
Video: Yuck – “Holing Out”
An Horse have just released their second album Walls and will be playing a free in-store at Criminal Records on May 15 at a time TBD in advance of their show at Mod Club the following evening opening up for Manchester Orchestra.
Video: An Horse – “Dressed Sharply”
Their commitments opening up for Foals completed as of this past weekend, Kiwis The Naked & Famous have set their own headlining date at Lee’s Palace for August 9, tickets $15 in advance. Blast has an interview with the band.
Australia’s Sia and Denmark’s Oh Land are teaming up for a tour that brings them to The Phoenix on July 24, tickets $24.50 in advance. Sia’s latest We Are Born came out last year while Oh Land’s self-titled debut came out in March. The Los Angeles Times talks to Oh Land’s Nanna Øland Fabricius about her work.
Stream: Wild Beasts / Smother
Rolling Stone declares Anna Calvi an artist to watch, and you can do just that as a recent show in Paris is available to watch in its entirety at ARTE. It should give you an idea of what you will see – and what I’ll be missing – when she’s at the El Mocambo on May 27.