Monday 21 February 2011

Yuck, Cults and Guards at Bush Hall - 18 February 2011


The first thing that you notice is the hair. Really.

Guards and their sister band Cults could front for L’Oreal and provide the music for the adverts while they are at it. We’re talking tresses way below the shoulder and over the chest. This is Rapunzel rock.

Guards are the vehicle for Richie Follin, a guy who knows the value of a wrung out guitar solo and whose voice ranges from the normal register to a wild keening falsetto. This last does not seem natural for him, as it involves a lot of painful-looking scrunching up of the face. It sounds good though.

For reasons known only to the band, Guards’ equipment is adorned by a variety of stuffed crows. These birds are never reverenced in an explicit British Sea Power kind of way. It’s just that Richie and the guys thought that they look cool.

The music itself is an eerie amalgam of Dinosaur Jr rock and 50’s pop. Noisy as hell, but somehow pure at the same time. I like what I hear.

The next act Cults are a kind of remixed version of the previous band. They have some of the same personnel in common, mostly playing different instruments. The key difference is singer Madeline Follin (relation), whose voice fades in and out of the mix and who is so uncomfortable that she spends almost the entire set with her hand clenched tight on the hem of her white mini dress.

For Cults, the sound of the 50’s and 60’s girl groups is even more pronounced, and, despite the vocals being fashionably distorted and indistinct, the mental image that the band conjures is of teen couples at the Prom, clinging to each other as they sway slowly together beneath a glitter ball.

I like them a lot, possibly because they sound so familiar even when I’ve never seen them before. The familiarity may stem in part because their great track ‘Come Outside’ is being used extensively by Sky as part of their Cricket World Cup coverage.

Headliners Yuck are going places. They’ve been picked for the BBC’s Sound of 2011 list and their album has been streaming on the Guardian’s website all through the week. Short of appearing on a TV show spawned from the demonic loins of Simon Cowell, these guys have had all the media breaks that a band could want.

And they have got to this position because of the simple, old fashioned fact that they are bloody good.

Sure, this music will be familiar to aficionados of the likes of Sonic Youth, Pavement and Teenage Fanclub, but it doesn’t matter. The influences may be old, but the songs are great, as tonight, Yuck absolutely OWN Bush Hall.

Their new self-titled album gets a good work out and it’s all wonderful, with ‘Suicide Policeman’, ‘Georgia’ and the epic set closer ‘Rubber’ each bang on the money.

Yuck have got to the stage where they have now honed their material to such perfection that they should only be judged on their own merits rather than damned because of similarities to the past. I suspect that they are going to go down a storm on the summer festival circuit.

Excellent support from Guards and Cults too. A top night out and all the bands are worth it.

(Did you really think that I was going to mention L’Oreal at the top of the page and NOT do the painfully laboured and obvious pay off?)

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