6/16/15 – The Sinclair

The Sinclair was in for a double dose of noise from Girl Band and Viet Cong on Tuesday night.

But first came Allston’s far more subdued Palehound. Lead singer and songwriter Ellen Kempner takes her songwriting cues from Elliott Smith and more contemporary acts like Waxahatchee. Kempner also rooms with Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, and the inflection in her breathy vocals and mannerisms show it.

At times Palehound built up their songs without really going anywhere, dragging on until the song dissipated and ended.

Drooler,” however, was the highlight. Beginning with a moderately intricate finger-picked intro performed by Kempner, “Drooler” has a degree of technicality and smart composition unmatched by other comparable bands.

 

 

Then the noise began. Girl Band aren’t for the faint of heart. They do what they do well, but what they do isn’t for everybody. These Dublin noiserockers – who are not girls – are in fact appropriate tourmates for Viet Cong. As one concertgoer said, “They’re a sludgier Viet Cong dude!” Girl Band takes elements from Viet Cong, but strips them down to the basics: dissonance, noise, and viscerality.

At times bass and guitar played interlocking parts in a call and response – like on “Lawman” – and at other times they dropped out entirely – like on “De Bom Bom” – leaving just vocals and primitive drums. But above all, Girl Band made rhythm their primary element, with Adam Faulkner banging out krauty beats and Alan Duggan using his guitar more as a percussive instrument than anything else. Bassist Daniel Fox used an unorthodox style to say the least. He played his bass overhand at times, often with a glass slide. At other times, he used what appeared to be a beer bottle to strum.

On “Why Do They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?” Duggan made his guitar sound like the roar of a jet engine. Dara Kiely’s repetitive talk-singing, hypnotic at first, became rather monotonous, but never lost intensity. Kiely spent most of the set draped over his mic stand, rarely moving more than a few inches away a la Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, although without quite the same degree of existential intensity.

The introduction for the penultimate song was probably longer than the song itself. “The Cha Cha Cha,” was a cheeky 30 second flash-song, similar in structure to Wire’s “Field Day for the Sundays.” At the end of the day I found myself asking, “Is it possible Girl Band mask limited proficiency with noise?” And the answer is probably yes. But that doesn’t really matter– the noise they make remains guttural and pleasing.

 

 

With a noisy shriek from drummer Mike Wallace, Viet Cong launched into their set. The Calgary natives have accumulated a lot of positive attention in 2015 with their debut self-titled album. Their brand of post-punk is industrial, dark, and distinctly contemporary. Rather than just reproduce music from the heyday, they mix together a smart array of influences from Krautrock to noise rock and at times even a touch of prog.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Viet Cong to be a bunch of disagreeable nihilists given tracks with titles like “Pointless Existence,” but that isn’t the case. After a few songs bassist and singer Matt Flegel said by way of introduction, “So the secrets out– we’re actually Canadian. Nobody’s offended by friendly Canadians!” Perhaps he meant it ironically given recent controversy over the band’s name, but most would agree: Behind the brooding intensity are just four “friendly Canadians.”

But the intensity still pushes through. Wallace played like a machine, keeping a motorik beat that matched his Can t-shirt. After playing most of SXSW with only one working hand, Wallace has already cemented his status as somewhat of a legend and a top drummer in indie rock today.

Scott Munro spent most of the night alternating between two twelve-string guitars, but for “Continental Drift” he picked up a completely transparent acrylic Fender strat. It was a novelty, and as Flegel remarked, “You can see the plaid right through it!” Unfortunately, the song itself was less memorable. Flegel’s deep vocals were impeccable, but the drive and vastness of the album version were gone.

Just as Munro and Christiansen were set to begin the repetitive, interlocking guitar intro of “Death,” Wallace got up from his drums and ran backstage. “Mike has to take a shit!” Flegel reported back to the audience. They started without him and the already eleven-minute closer from Viet Cong turned into an even longer twenty-plus minute jam. When Mike came back he tossed the remnants of a 12 pack of Brooklyn Lager into the crowd before likely being reprimanded by the venue’s staff and returning sheepishly to his drums.

Like they said, they’re just four friendly Canadians and they play some of the fiercest post-punk today.

A Night of Noise: Palehound, Girl Band, and Viet Cong
Pros
  • Lots of noise
  • A friendly bunch of Canadians
  • Free beer
Cons
  • Slightly out of place opener (but Palehound still crank)
8.2Overall Score

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