The first band I did see was The John Steel Singers. Full disclosure: I am friends with this band - I organised two of their first few gigs and I recorded their first demos. With that out of the way I'm free to say that I think that, on a technical level, they're probably the best pop songwriters in Brisbane. Their songs are so intelligent and brilliantly written while still containing amazingly catchy melodies and hooks. With that said, they're not always the most engaging live act (don't kill me guys, hear me out). While I've never seen a 'bad' JSS show, sometimes it seems as though they're content to merely play their songs on stage without really putting a lot of energy into the actual performance, especially in the vocals department (although with the number of 3 part vocal harmonies they employ, maybe I'm asking too much). I'm someone who really values energy in performance, so this is probably more of an issue for me than for other people (and admittedly, I've never seen a JSS show where the crowd wasn't totally into the band). Also, the last few times I've seen the band it's been at somewhat larger venues (The Columbian, The Globe, The Zoo), so maybe it's only an issue in bigger rooms.
Friday would indicate that this is the case, because in the intimite confines of Ric's there was no lack of energy from the band. In fact, I'd say that it was the best set I've seen them play. I could tell that the band have been touring and practicing for their EP launch in August, because they were really tight (without being so rehearsed as to cross over into being somewhat boring). Their songs were as melodic as ever, but they also injected some much-needed noise into certain sections (giving their Kinks-esque pop a decidedly 'experimental-Wilco' feel), while their ambient segues between songs sounded as natural as I've ever heard, not forced like they could sound on previous occasions. I was also pleased to see the return of their two-piece brass section to their live set - recently the trumpet has gone awol, leaving a lone trombone for a song or two per set. Guys, more brass! Said brass was used most effectively on the untitled closing song, featuring one of their catchiest choruses followed by dueling guitars solos and one hell of a chord progression to finish.
Download a live recording of The John Steel Singers' set here (courtesy of ex_king_john of tregbo).
Download their early demos here (featuring songs that will appear on their forthcoming EP in better recorded versions).
Next was No Through Road (from Adelaide), playing in solo 'man-with-a-guitar' mode. The man really faced an uphill battle, playing such music on a Friday night at Ric's, sandwiched between the huge sounding pop of The John Steel Singers and the insane energy and volume of Stature:Statue. To his credit he gained the attention of a decent percentage of the room, largely thanks to his willingness to scream his head off while playing such quiet music. Indeed, if there's one word to describe NTR's music it's 'dramatic'. Maybe even melodramatic. But hell, I'd rather see something that flirts with being over-the-top than something that's safely within the borders of supposed good taste. Overall I can't say that I fell in love with NTR's music on Friday, but I'm certainly interested enough to see them next time they're here in full band mode.
Capping off the night were the super-energetic Stature:Statue. Quick summary of the band: loud, angular, yelly, massive hair. Seriously. Massive hair (although less massive than it used to be, now that the singer has had his cut). My impression of the band is that they sound like what Wolf & Cub would sound like if their influences had skipped a decade or two; instead of sounding influenced by 60s psychedelia and 70s prog rock, Stature:Statue sound more like 70s/80s punk (of both the regular and post- varieties). I guess that puts them in the same league as a lot of other energetic post-punk outfits doing the rounds at the moment. However, I never felt myself thinking 'here we go, another one of these bands'... and I'm not quite sure why. I mean, they're super energetic, with flailing limbs and guitars going every which way, but that's not exactly uncommon in their chosen genre. They have an insane rhythm section, but again, not all that uncommon. Highwire vocals? Nothing new. Good use of effects? Not exactly ubiquitous in the genre, but not exactly unheard of either (although they did use some really cool looping effects on the vocals). I can't quite figure out why they seem better than most other bands that sound like that. Without hearing a good studio recording it's difficult to determine whether it's because of superior songwriting or just a great live show. I think that for the time being I'm going to have to put it down to the Seriously Massive Hair. Hey, it worked for At The Drive In, right?
Oh, and I think that they might sing in Italian sometimes.
if (true) bonusPoints++;