10 Pool Valley
In the aftermath 2007’s genius Hissing Fauna, Are you The Destroyer, a contender for album of the decade, of Montreal appeared set for a breakthrough into a form of US mainstream acceptance. Glowing reviews from across the board concurred that the Athens, Georgia-based band had delivered on the immense promise they had shown over the preceding seven albums in 10 years, that had ranged from the unassuming acoustic innocence of debut Cherry Peel, the indie-pop Sgt. Pepperisms of The Gay Parade and the schizoid pop/folk/psych/afro/disco brilliance of 2004’s underrated Satanic Panic In The Attic. Yet despite the undisputed brilliance of Hissing Fauna, the commercial success didn’t quite materialise, mainly as a result of the post-2007 of Montreal steadfastly refusing to retread ground.
2008’s Skeletal Lamping debuted at an impressive number 38 in the US Billboard Chart but it became quickly apparent that it was the epitome of a divisive record. Some (myself included – it was my album of that year) were bowled over by its uncanny ability to merge numerous musical styles within the same song and still emerge with something resembling “pop”, whilst others criticised it as a step too far down the road of experimentation, to the detriment of the songs. 2010’s False Priest and 2012’s Paralytic Stalks were damned with faint praise, with genre-hopping undoubtedly a factor. False Priest, featuring Solange Knowles and Janelle Monae, appeared to be an attempt to channel the inner Prince that Barnes had begun to find on the two preceding records whilst Paralytic Stalks was an artistically excellent but commercially frustrating return to the kaleidoscopic brilliance of Skeletal Lamping. Last year’s Lousy With Sylvianbriar was another about-turn, with its straightforward 60s/70s throwback rock quite unlike anything else in their immense back catalogue, at times sounding like some form of alliance between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Neil Young.
If all this seems a little overwhelming, wait until you see their live show. Barnes and his merry men and women will likely visit all moods of their post-2004 output over the course of a bona fide, hit-filled 90 minutes or so, with his well drilled backing band laying the foundation for Barnes to sing, strum, strut, emote and despair his way through the set. This would be more than enough to keep even the most demanding of gig goer happy but, ever keen to go the extra mile, of Montreal’s stage show is a thing of utter beauty, representing a colourful, action packed and benevolent acid trip. Expect to see a carnival of theatrics, utilising costume, performance art, projected light and a host of lovingly sculpted creatures on what will be a constantly busy stage. History dictates that there won’t be many better shows pass through Brighton in 2014.
Support comes from the stoned disco of Calvin Love who hails from Edmonton Colorado, the same neck of the woods as Mac De Marco.
All’s well that ends well isn’t a failsafe, is it? The last half hour of Montreal’s set was consistent with the quality of their dazzling ‘07 Audio and ‘09 Digital performances, with the encore of album of the naughties contender Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? highlights ‘Gronlandic Edit’ and ‘She’s a Rejector’ close to perfect. The clever audience participation intro to Gronlandic Edit – SPOILER ALERT we didn’t realise we were singing it – finally loosened up a previously lethargic and static crowd before they went crazy to the final song’s bitter relationship break-up lament. There aren’t any other bands where you can legitimately shout back at the stage “There’s the girl that left me bitter, just want to pay some other girl to walk up to her and hit her.” and the two thirds full Haunt took full advantage of the opportunity before sending the Athens, Georgia band on their way with well deserved applause.
So all good then? Well no, not really. The openers really don’t help matters, it’s Sunday night and the crowd appears to need something lively to shake them out of a roast dinner and two pints down the pub stupor. In defence of the audience it certainly wasn’t going to be Calvin Love. Coming on stage and declaring yourself rock and roll is a mistake, if you then go on to offer – admittedly polished and coherently constructed – pseudo new romantic guff. The four piece’s set picked up a touch with a penultimate track that sounds like it could have been an outtake from The Breakfast Club soundtrack, but in the main flatlines as a limp crowd response confirms. The stage banter is no better with a particularly bland riff about using the “chunnel” as engaging as the music. Aspiring bands would do well to find out their management and booker, they must be earning their money.
Therefore, it was no real surprise that the crowd were caught cold by the headliners. Though this wasn’t helped by their damp squib attempt to create some drama around Kevin Barnes’s (vox, guitar, deity) stage entry which failed, as understanding what Rebecca Cash (key/vox) was saying was difficult as a result of accent and sound issues. The early part of the set saw a number of selections from last year’s Lousy With Sylvianbriar interspersed with newer material, however the stylistic change from their schizoid funk-pop of earlier material to the meat and potatoes Creedence like soft rock of the newer stuff is discombobulating. It’s not that the new material is poor, far from it; songs such as opener ‘Triumph of Disintegration’, with its sing along chorus and the Iggy-esque ‘Fugitive Air‘ shining, but they don’t match the disco strut of ‘Suffer For Fashion‘ or the acid-Prince of first half highlight and sing along ‘The Parties Crashing Us‘.
Finally, at around the 45 minute mark, the band unleash a sequence of songs that clearly cements their reputation as one of the best live outfits in indie-rock today. Veering from the lounge jazz of ‘And I’ve Seen A Bloody Shadow’, the aural sex of ‘Plastis Wafer’s’ and ‘St. Equisite’s Confession’, followed by the lyrically depressed but musical ejaculation of chemically-enhanced joy that is ‘Heimdalgate Like A Promethean Curse.’ And then THAT encore.
Unfortunately it’s just not quite enough to erase the memory of the slightly patchy beginning. Doubtless a good gig but of Montreal are capable of so much more.
Founded by Alex Murray, One Inch Badge (or OIB it’s also known) is an independently minded music collective based in Brighton. Disheartened by the lack of support the true Brighton scene was receiving at the time, OIB Records launched as a label that focused on the artist and did justice to the innovation and creativity of the underground.
While One Inch Badge Records has expanded beyond its original parameters, releasing records for acclaimed international artists as well as less established acts, they remain dedicated to supporting the local scene that built and inspired them. This is particularly evident in the April 2011 released 18 track compilation ‘Sea Monsters’ which is a comprehensive 18 track compilation of the most crucial bands out of Brighton right now.
The One Inch Badge collective are also active and prominent local promoters on the Brighton scene, recently promoting Brighton shows for MF DOOM; Wire; Venetian Snares; Sage Francis; Nina Nastasia; Why?; KRS-One; 65daysofstatic; Health; Wolf Parade; Vashti Bunyan; Pains of Being Pure at Heart; Liars; and many more.