We have a real quality and value for money bill at The Institute tonight, with not only wonderful off-the-wall headliners Parquet Courts, but also up-and-coming The Wytches and talented new boys Ultimate Painting. An evening of guitar heaven awaits.
Ultimate Painting are led by James Hoare (Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (Mazes). I’ve not heard of them before and the band name isn’t too catchy either. However, they turn in an excellent and well received set of catchy two-guitar indie pop. I see they’re gathering a fanbase, with, among others, Marc Riley on Radio 6 championing them. They’ve also got an album coming out soon.
Brighton band The Wytches have carved out a niche somewhere in the area of grunge meets surf and psych and have created their own brand of hi-energy doom-rock, with songs like ‘Gravedweller’. It’s also youthful hairy, heads-down rock of a traditional kind, and comes as a bit of a shock after the relative indie gentility of Ultimate Painting. Lead singer and guitarist Kristian Bell must have cast iron vocal chords the way he hollers his way through the set.
And so to the headliners. New York-based Parquet Courts emerged big time last year with their acclaimed album ‘Light Up Gold’. It figured in many of the year’s top album charts, and Piccadilly Records of Manchester even had it as their No1. They’re now touring their recentley released new album ‘Sunbathing Animal’. I’ve been hooked on the band from the start and was knocked out by seeing one of their few UK gigs in Manchester back in February. Their set has changed quite a bit since then, being now dominated by material from the new album.
The band take the stage and launch into new song ‘Ducking and Dodging’. This angst-ridden jerky little number features a motormouth delivery of lyrics from singer guitarist Andrew Savage over a repetitive guitar riff. As the new album and tonight’s show prove, the band are coming of age and developing a diverse range of material to create a style of their own. Their varied influences have been much commented on. There are shades of Television, The Fall, Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, Wire and, above all, Pavement. In fact many of the best bands that should feature in any record collection. The torrent of stream-of-consciousness lyrics sometimes even recalls Bob Dylan. However, Parquet Courts are not copyists, but a bunch of guys who intelligently and creatively pick over the bones of past bands to sculpt their own distinctive sound.
Frontman guitar and vocal duties are shared between Savage and Austin Brown. Some of the best moments are when they trade guitar licks and the instruments interlock, as on some of the best Television songs, for example on the lengthy feedback-drenched work-out of linked new songs ‘Raw Milk’ and ‘Into the Garden’. Bassist Sean Yeaton and drummer Max Savage are a solid, pulsating rhythm section throughout. Despite the dominance of new songs, the material that goes down best with the audience is the full-on punk-paced old favourites ‘Master of My Craft’ and ‘Borrowed Thyme’, which see an outbreak of mad crowd surfing.
Parquet Courts don’t do smiles and don’t do encores, but nevertheless leave the punters well satisfied with the speedy infectious classic ‘Light up Gold’ and the, even more frantic, new song ‘Sunbathing Animal’. I’m left slightly disappointed that some great songs have been left out tonight. Missing is ‘Stoned and Starving’ from the ‘Light Up Gold’ album, the song that first got me into the band, and ‘She’s Rolling’ from the new album. However, the band have been performing these songs for a while and probably want to do something different. Also it really would have been great to hear the amazing and bonkers ‘He’s Seeing Paths’ from last year’s ‘Tally’ EP, a song reminiscent of Beck’s inspired ‘Mellow Gold’ period, but which they don’t seem to do live. Oh well, no complaints really after a thrilling evening.
Review and Photos – John Bentley