Thursday, April 3, 2008

Music: Beach House and The Papercuts

I found out about Beach House last year, when they opened up for The Clientele. I don't love The Clientele (in fact, I ended up leaving in the middle of their set), but had gone along with a few friends who did. Beach House turned out to be the delicious creme filling in the middle of two otherwise dry cookies (I don't remember the name of the first act, but they were fairly forgettable): sweet and dreamy and viscous. A good-looking but shy bearded man played a sedated twangy surf guitar (think Sleepwalk by The Ventures) while an even more shy girl sat at a keyboard (organ? I dunno; clearly I am no expert), perpendicular to the stage, slouched over with her long hair hung all over her face. She played slowly and moaned sweetly into the microphone. That was it. But it was magical. My friend bought the CD and I listened to it again and again.

This year they came back, but it seems that instead of taking opiates, singer Victoria Legrand dropped some acid. Or maybe a year of touring and good reviews has helped her self-esteem. Either way, she. . . still needs to work on her performance strategy. This time, her keyboard was set up to face the audience, and the techs had her bathed in light (leaving guitarist Alex Scally in the dark; perhaps he's still shy). She talked a bit in between songs, but instead of coming off as friendly or inspiring or sweet, she just came off as a wee bit crazy and somewhat annoying. As the show wore on, she began to gesture strangely with her fingers in the air in front of her face (keyboards and hand gestures go together about as well as ice cream and soy sauce, by the way). She also amped her singing up a bit, so that at times, she growled instead of moaned (think Stevie Nicks versus Patti Smith. . . of course no great insult to compare her to either).

Of course, the expectation principle was strongly in effect here (I most enjoyed Beach House when I had no expectations), so I won't say anything dreadful, and I will probably still procure their new album. But I might not go out of my way to see them live again. As other people have argued, their quiet, dreamy sounds are more appropriate for intimate late nights in small spaces, and the mood they invoke is not one that you want to share with 500 drunken strangers pushing and shoving and spilling beer on your shoes. Also, you probably need to by lying down to best appreciate their sound, not standing for three hours waiting for them to come on, and then standing for another forty minutes while they play, so that all you can think about is how much you need to stretch your lower back. That's just distracting.

As for The Papercuts, their music is fairly pleasant, if a bit repetitive and lacking in virtuosity. Singer/songwriter Jason Quever has a thin warbly voice and seems to be yet another casualty of the Thom Yorke school of mumbledom (mind you, Thom Yorke is one of my top five favorite people in the history of the world ever, but that doesn't mean his greatness can be appropriated by cribbing his style, although performer after performer has tried (the singers of Palo Alto and Muse come to mind immediately). It took him quite some time to warm up, and even then, he was reaching for notes he couldn't even hit with a bow and arrow pointed at the sky. The bassist is going to develop horrible carpal tunnel if he doesn't learn how to hold his instrument properly.

No comments: