Monthly Archives: August 2015
TV on the Radio
Camden Roundhouse, London (30/08/15)
The first of their two London sets this summer found TV on the Radio at an odd juncture. Their original scheduled run at the Camden Roundhouse earlier in the year was postponed when touring drummer Jahphet Landis was hospitalised and pronounced unable to travel. Having now returned to the road with Landis back on propulsive form, the Brooklyn outfit seemed to grasp their return with equal parts humility, gratitude, and bombast, keen to prove that the additional months their UK fans spent awaiting their return were worth their patience.
This tour is an insight into the group’s creative ideals as they adjust the dials and push down on the accelerator, leaving behind the sharper edges of their early albums as they clutch for the kind of explosive alt-rock that comes with a Stadium-Ready seal. Perhaps as a consequence of reflection and reassessment following the sad death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011, with their new material and live attack, the remaining foursome seem to have their hearts set on the big leagues. Camden Roundhouse is hardly a bedfellow of the O2 Arena, but it’s a clear stepping stone for acts making the push for more widespread connection; a signifier that the Academies and Apollos of years past have grown too small to contain their sound and fanbase.
Indeed, the bulk of their first night’s set consisted of cuts from last year’s Seeds; an album on which the group shed their more intricate tendencies in favour of big hooks, big gestures, and big, open-hearted sentiments. The results are a mixed bag, sounding both mightily impressive (the likes of ‘Ride’ and gentle triumph of ‘Seeds’ scraped the Roundhouse’s rafters with an ease that perhaps wouldn’t be expected of their early recordings) and a little ill-fitting when compared to their more fiery back catalogue. Although the heartfelt conviction of the songs themselves shone through regularly, there was little new in their canon to electrify in the same way as ‘Young Liars’ or ‘Repetition’.
The audience reception reflected such a dichotomy between the old and the new. The evening’s polite reception was revealed for its modesty when the group launched into the snarling chug of 2006’s’Wolf Like Me’; still the band’s calling card after close to ten years of circulation. Mirroring the song’s fixation on a bloody transformation, the crowds were instantly braying as Tunde Adebimpe wailed over his flaming heart and mongrel mind. ‘Dancing Choose’ came closest to rivalling such energy, but otherwise the set was unfortunately marred by muddy sound levels; the treble and higher pitches failing to poke through the fuzzier mesh of heavy bass and Dave Sitek’s ever-humming low-end guitar. It’s a shame, because such issues reduced the impact of songs such as the springy ‘Happy Idiot’, whose guitar solo was completely indiscernible amid the rush.
Thank goodness, then, for Adebimpe, whose phenomenal charisma, enthusiasm and lung-dredging, tongue-twisting prowess elevated the set beyond the sum of its parts. As he bounded and leapt across the stage, shrieking and spitting phrases both sweeping (“everything is gonna be okay!” goes ‘Trouble’) and bizarre (“foam-injected Axl Rose”, anyone?), it was near-impossible to shake one’s gaze. It’s testament to his power and conviction as a performer that in a live setting, many of Seeds‘ broader summations find a more powerful translation. Whether or not TV on the Radio will ever return to their punkier, more openly political roots is anyone’s guess. They certainly have the ambition to fill arenas should they continue on this trajectory, but it certainly risks rendering them a less engaging, edgy prospect for those who still cherish Dear Science as their crowning achievement. For now, with Adebimpe on fine form as their ace in the hole, it’s enough knowing that they have seeds on ground. Let’s see what grows from here.
Young Liars // Lazerray // Golden Age // Happy Idiot // Could You // Careful You // Winter // Wolf Like Me // Seeds // Trouble // Repetition // DLZ // Ride // Dancing Choose // Staring at the Sun
Another One (Captured Tracks)
Everybody’s favourite Viceroy ambassador has returned to our speakers this summer, though it doesn’t feel like he’s been away at all. The sixteen months that have passed since the release of Salad Days have seen Mac DeMarco’s diary fully booked with globetrotting duties, clowning at festivals, end-of-year garlanding, and a steady stream of delightful interviews and press pops. Fans have been able to watch Mac brandishing selfie-sticks, tackling bizarre interview topics, and competing in quizzes with his own mother, and plenty more besides, satisfying his cultish fanbase’s desires for more of his trademark goofiness. Mac feels as accessible and personable as a chummy guy living a few doors away; an appeal heightened by the open invitation to join him for a coffee that closes his latest creation. As a result of this infectiously enjoyable drip-feed of Mac pranks, the arrival of Another One feels very speedy − even more so given that title, which seems to flash a gap-toothed grin of its own.
Promoted and released as a “mini-LP”, it’s hard to imagine Another One sounding more casual than it already does. Written and recorded inside of a few weeks, these seven songs (and a closing instrumental) lope and languish in mid-tempo lovesickness; a formula which gives the whole package a wafting, meandering quality. It’s exactly what one would expect to hear from a Mac DeMarco recording, but even as the songwriter’s charms continue to hold sway, there’s a drifting vagueness to Another One which can occasionally feel reductive, especially in its midsection. However, this is partially to do with the diminutive nature of the mini-LP form: it’s much less an artistic statement than it is a bonus set of songs, providing a bridge between Salad Days and Mac’s next project − whatever that may be. There’s no narrative thread or singular voice binding these tracks together; instead, in the simplest terms, it’s Mac examining variations on matters of the “L-word”.
In subject matter and execution, this is Mac’s softest, soppiest release to date. Proceedings are less bristly than those of Salad Days, less frittersome than 2, and musically much less busy than either. Opener ‘The Way You’d Love Her’ is vintage Mac; that signature wobbly guitar tone, jauntily skipping rhythms, and Mac’s own playful drawl (“How’s your heart been beating? / How’s your skin been keeping?”) as familiar and snug as a baseball cap. The songs that follow are much more limited in terms of toolkit, and Mac takes on a something-for-everybody approach to the lovestruck themes in a manner which mostly works. There is swooning delight alongside shuffling heartbreak, mature acceptance contrasted with issues of trust. On ‘Heart Like Hers’, Mac plays the wounded soul, crooning about “poor old me” in a self-pitying swirl. Moments later, the chirruping guitars of ‘I’ve Been Waiting For Her’ wrest with the same insuppressible triumph as anthems such as the Stone Roses’ ‘This is the One’ (albeit in a much lighter fashion). Mac sounds particularly sensitive during the pedal-washed warmth of ‘Without Me’, in which his romantic dalliance comes to a respectful, sympathetic close. The songwriting is crisp and unfussy, and while Another One lacks anything remotely resembling new ground, there’s nothing here to upset fans of Mac’s established style. Critics may dig at the record’s lack of mettle or momentum, but that doesn’t feel relevant to the point of Another One, nor the approach of Mac himself. Instead − as always − what lingers is the curious juxtaposition between the gentle balladry and the daft sight of our hero playing a drumkit amid lapping waves (see the ‘Another One’ video below). You can reach for deeper meaning all you want, but it’s really just a good bit of fun.
Summer is a bittersweet season, and Viceroy may have to settle for sharing their poster-boy as the face of sun-dappled heartache. Mac may be in a tender mood throughout Another One, but as he promises on ‘No Other Heart’, he never fails to bring along a few sparkles, dosing this languid collection with personality and simple, pleasant melodies. It’s hardly set up for immortality, but Another One is warm enough to tide us over for the rest of the summer. (And if you can, go take him up on that offer of a cup of coffee.)
“Stop on by, I’ll make you a cup of coffee. See ya later.”