Wednesday 21 November 2012

Polica and NZCA/Lines at Heaven - 20 November 2012

Polica pic by Grace Dickinson

I ordered the tickets back in June, so it’s fair to say that I have been looking forward to tonight for a long time.

First the bad news. Support act Phantogram have had to pull out because Josh Carter has broken his hand.

The good news. Everything else.

For starters, we have a very enjoyable and capable stand-in support act in NZCA/Lines.

As is the case with an increasing number of electronic bands, they take inspiration from that lush neon-soaked synth music from the Eighties that was synonymous with American pop videos in which a beautiful woman would stand in a window while the curtains blew around her. They were considered rather naff at the time, but are now enjoyed unironically. Chromatics have a lot to answer for.

Main man Michael Lovett sports a haircut that was produced with the help of his mum’s best pudding bowl and fiddles with a small keyboard. He sings in a high register, accompanied by a drummer and a bassist who adds a healthy dose of funk to proceedings.

I like NZCA/Lines a lot. They have actual songs and don’t just rely on the nostalgic swoosh of their music.The fact that Lovett’s speaking voice is about four octaves lower than the one he uses to sing is also a source of wonder.

There was a period during the first quarter of the year when Poliça suddenly became the coolest band on the planet. They had a good SXSW and the hipster end of the internet burst into flames. Can the band now justify that love?

They can, and in spades. No band ever went wrong through having two drummers and Poliça are no exception. As with NZCA/Lines, much emphasis is put on a thumping bass guitar.

Poliça’s focal point is vocalist Channy Leanagh. The fact that her vocals are Autotuned is a vital element to the band’s sound, adding a slight metallic, artificial sheen to her keening delivery. She stands, her arms outstretched, embracing us all.

The band’s default setting is a precise and well-honed smooth groove that sits comfortably alongside acts such as Portishead and Massive Attack.

However, the real musical spectre at this feast is UK soul queen Sade, who during the early Eighties bestrode the world of popular music like a cool seductive colossus, and who is increasingly becoming a key and influential touchstone. Of course the fact that Sade is both elegant and so reclusive that she makes Kate Bush look like Cheryl Cole doesn’t hurt the mystique either.

(A further digression – Brooklyn-based outfit The Rosebuds have just re-worked Sade’s ‘Love Deluxe’ album in its entirety and released it for free. It sounds absolutely ace and almost exactly like the original).

A good sign for me is when a band sounds too big and accomplished for the venue that they are playing in. Poliça completely dominate this evening and conquer Heaven in a way that Django Django signally failed to do last week.

I raise some eyebrows among my friends by comparing Poliça with Kraftwerk. I’m not alluding to the sound that they make, but the meticulous manner in which they make it. There is barely a note out of place here, or any component that has not been scrupulously considered.

It is testament to Channy Leanagh that a band that might otherwise seem cold and aloof instead seem warm and inclusive. She has a big smile on her face and this crowd beam back at her.

Poliça genuinely deserve their critical adulation. What they now need to do is to expose themselves to the wider world.

They’ll go down a bomb anywhere there are beautiful women, balconies and lots of wind to blow the curtains about.

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