Battles (live in Vicar St, Dublin)
Review Snapshot: More boring than bawlah.
The Cluas Verdict? 5 out of 10
Last night, apparently, Vicar St. was the place to be; three bands, a sell out show, and more people than I’ve ever seen packed into this venue. The Red Neck Manifesto took to the stage shortly after nine o’clock, an expectant crowd wound up… and waited.
The Manifesto are a hard band to pin point, they play a super tight no nonsense style of instrumental indie jazz that is easy to appreciate, but apparently a good deal harder to enjoy. I can’t explain why - all the ingredients are there - but it just ain’t funky. Somehow, amidst all the finesse, between the precise licks and subtle changes, life is lost. The gig, and the tunes, never kick off, never pull in the audience, never really get under your skin and make you wanna get up offa your thing.
A packed venue, a crowd in the mood to party, an electric, expectant, atmosphere and most were left merely nodding their heads in appreciation. It's good music, technically flawless, but without the spark to grab you its nothing more than quirky background music, unsuited to the stage.
Battles I had never seen before, but had heard good, good things. Their name alone drew excitement, and from the crowd’s reaction it is evident that they have tapped into something. What that something is though, beats me. A few weeks ago, my most cynical friend described them as “a bunch of indie blokes with too much time and technology on their hands, trying to sound different.” After last night, I couldn’t agree more. There were good moments, sure, where everything meshed, the band tapped into the energy of the crowd, and it all somehow, miraculously, worked. Those were the good times.
The rest of the time was spent on loopers and style. Exaggerated emotion, tossed scarves, and sweaty, meaningful stares. Some people see the beats as something amazing, something new, something primal. But this seems to be a band trying to slavishly recreate the sound of a rave DJ. Except a DJ has all the tools at his hand, can meld the beats, and tweak them in any direction the mood points to. Battles are stuck in replication. They never seem to make the music their own, to add spark, or flare, and just go with it. Music at its most primal, is simple, an effortless mastery of sound that infects. The technology, or the rhythms themselves need not be simple, but they do have to be intrinsic, elemental to the player, to really allow them come to life. This just didn’t happen last night, it was as if the technology took centre stage; instead of being the medium, it became the message.
Passing the bouncer on the way for a pint, he tossed his head inside, raised an eyebrow and said “what the f**k is that?” Well, who the f**k knows. There is something there, when it hits, it works. Quite nicely. When it doesn’t it seems boring, forced and, well, just a little bit pointless.