posted on November 28, 2009 18:11
The Antlers, Cymbals Eat Guitars (live at the Nouveau Casino, Paris)
Review Snapshot: Two loud doses of U.S. alt-rock, which may be surprising for some fans of 'Hospice'. But at high volume and with lots of reverberating bass, The Antlers reveal even more of the emotions that inspired that fabulous album. Cymbals Eat Guitars, at war with your eardrums, are an uncomplicated pleasure.
The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10
Every band on tour will stop in Paris - but alternative rock and pop have a relatively small audience in the French capital. So tonight two great American bands, Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Antlers, are playing on the same bill in a small venue in the hip Oberkampf district at only 15 euro a ticket. And still the place isn't even two-thirds full. (It was a similar story for another cracking double bill, DM Stith and The Acorn, that we reviewed for you back in May.)
Tonight's show is part of the Custom series organised by French culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles, so it's only politic to have a local band kick off proceedings. However, Liquid Architecture are a low-rate plod-rock band trying too hard to be electro-funky like The Gossip. We needn't dwell on them.
Visually, with their check shirts and woollen hats, Cymbals Eat Guitars recall early '90s slacker rock and grunge. Guitar, bass and drums are all wielded as blunt instruments and Joseph D'Agostino seems to finish most songs by shredding his voice.
Fortunately, CEG have melody and personality running through them like veins of colour in a block of marble. D'Agostino, when not tearing his vocal cords into strips of bacon, has a warmth to his voice on the quieter moments of songs like 'And The Hazy Sea'. And on 'Wind Phoenix' bassist Matthew Whipple is almost jaunty. Cymbals Eat Guitars are a likeable bunch of lads who show that indie rock can be charming, thoughtful and tuneful. But they're still bloody loud, which is always great.
The Antlers have a more cerebral appeal - as the house lights dim we hear several impatient 'SHHH!'-ers at work. 'Hospice', one of the year's best albums, carefully conjures up nightmarish visions and spectral sounds. How would Peter Silberman (right) and his band replicate live such mercurial and introspective music?
First impressions are worrying - The Antlers are as loud as Cymbals Eat Guitars. For a band with no bassist, they have an overwhelming level of bass in the sound mix tonight; opener 'Kettering' rumbles like a juggernaut over a bridge and Silberman's voice is almost drowned out.
However, this might be part of the plan. 'Hospice' captures the sickening helplessness and frustration we feel when a loved one is in hospital - and tonight's show is a release of those emotions. That low, rumbling sound swirls across the room like dark stormclouds gathering, while Michael Lerner's frequent and careful use of his splash cymbals gives a nervous fizz to our synapses.
Silberman's voice is too low in the mix for us to make out his words, but his taut vocal melodies are sufficient to tell his story. He never forces or exaggerates the sentiment of his lyrics; his delivery is emotionally honest and recognisably human. The narrator of 'Hospice' is an ordinary person who must endure something traumatic yet banal - we will all face the same situation at some point in our lives. So too, by analogy, the tumultuous music contrasts with the heartfelt vocals: here is the dramatic force of songs like 'Bear', 'Two' and 'Sylvia'. (For this show The Antlers play a short, seven-song set, all from the current album but leaving out the Prologue, Epilogue and 'Shiva'.)
Tonight's live performance of tracks from 'Hospice' complements their recorded versions and brings something new to our appreciation of them. The Antlers have created something of enduring beauty, humanity and artistic value.