Thursday, 20 November 2014

Girlpool and Oscar - Shacklewell Arms - 17 November 2014

Girlpool pic by Amanda Hatfield

I’m back. I’m back. I’m back at the Shack. This is my third gig in a row at the Shacklewell Arms and my second in 48 hours. I’m starting to end up here on autopilot.

It’s a free gig, but sold out, so I’ve been encouraged to get here early.

First up are Oscar, who turn out to be a band rather than a diminutive Chelsea footballer.

There’s a lot to like. The band are fronted by the very convivial Oscar Scheller, resplendent in his new sparkly top and possessed of a rich, deep voice and a nice line in catchy, C-86 style pop.

Guitars jangle while the bassist multitasks and lays down beats via a keyboard. Oscar have solved the perennial Shacklewell drummer problem by dispensing with one altogether.

Each song bounces along complete with ridiculously memorable choruses. Aside from the Postcard bands, this kind of sweeping, emotional pop never entirely caught the wider public imagination, but those of us who like it, take this music to our hearts.

The band are occasionally joined onstage by an uncomfortable looking singer named Florence. She adds to the sound but finds it difficult to make eye contact with the audience. The rest of the band are cheerfully away of her awkwardness and lend support. This does not stop her from hastily exiting the stage at any moment that she is not needed.

A very relaxed and enjoyable start to proceedings.

The internet moves at a staggering pace. Headliners Girlpool only seemed to first hit the pages of Pitchfork and Stereogum about two weeks ago and yet here they are abandoning sunny Los Angeles for a damp Monday night in Dalston.

It’s a simple set up. Two girls with guitars, one tall and red haired (Cleo Tucker), one shorter and blonde (Harmony Tividad) playing sharp sassy songs with a mocking slant. Their harmonies fall somewhere between folk and the country-inflected pop of outfits such as Those Darlins’. It’s a whole heap of fun.

Despite many of tonight’s songs running less than two minutes, they tend to be pithy vignettes that pack a punch. Literally in the case of the track ‘Jane’ in which the eponymous heroine thumps boyfriend Johnny for “talking out of both sides of his mouth”.

There seems to be a similar theme in a lot of the Girlpool material as tracks ‘Slutmouth’ and ‘Blah Blah Blah’ also touch on the consequences of trash talk.

The Girlpool set is short and sweet. Even allowing for the traditional girl band swapping of instruments, everything is over well within half an hour.  In honesty, the performance is a little rough around the edges, but that is very much part of their charm.

Yet another good night at the Shacklewell. But I’m going to have to go somewhere else soon…

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