Tuesday, March 03, 2009

PENS and Wavves and Crystal Stilts

I had a hunch that this gig would be, like the Pains of Being Pure At Heart in February last year at the Buffalo Bar, the gig of the year. I was wrong. But it was still bloody good.

PENS were magnificent. Their shortcomings - and this inept trio have many - serve them far better in the darkened surroundings of a basement bar at full volume than they do in the studio.

They swap instruments and take turns at singing because, well, none of them are that proficient at any of them, so it doesn't matter and why not go out in a blaze of glory in every song? It's more fun that way.

And this was fun - fifteen minutes of non-stop pop being smashed up and stamped on. They announce one song as a cover version. I have no idea what song they were covering. My guess is that the PENS girls were all covering different songs. The gig was over in a heartbeat. I want more.

Wavves, conversely, sound nowhere near as good live as they do on record. Here's a clue: there are two of them, a drummer and a guitarist, one's wearing a white shirt, one's wearing a red shirt, and they're playing garage rock. I never liked The White Stripes, so I'm never going to like an imitation.

They do, though, nail their sound spectacularly well on about half the numbers - frenzied hubba bubba pop caught in a gale of feedback - but half the time the lack of studio jiggery-pokery reveals the cracks in their armour.

Crystal Stilts had come in for some flak on this UK tour, with many criticisms being levelled at the singer for not being able to sing. Had none of these critics heard the records beforehand? Complaining about the singer's tunelessness is like going to a U2 gig and complaining that the singer's a cunt with a Messiah complex.

I hadn't seen Crystal Stilts' earlier UK dates; perhaps they were poor on those. On the last night of this tour, they were immense. Darkly atmospheric, richly melodic, casually louche and demonically powerful, I was overwhelmed.

Yes, one song did sound a bit too much like the Mary Chain and one too much like Joy Division, but I'd heard the records beforehand so I won't complain.


Daniel Novakovic said...

The PENS cover song is Sexual Harassment – If I Gave You A Party

Is it true that one of the Crystal Stilts looks like Stephen Pastel?

FireEscape said...

Yes, but do PENS know that?!

Looks like?! I thought it was Stephen Pastel. Still, not a hard look to pull off (readers: to achieve this look, eschew all food, discard combs and hairbrushes, and invest in one anorak from a charity shop - you too could look like Stephen Pastel in just 28 days).

Daniel Novakovic said...

haha probably not

Anonymous said...

I thought Crystal Stilts were far more janglier than on record. If it wasn't for the singing it could have been a Sea Urchins gig.

Loved all the bands. The only thing i found off putting was the thing the Wavves singer did shaking his hair around

FireEscape said...

I didn't see you there, Steve. It was a busy show, I suppose (unless, of course, you were hiding from me).

Crystal Stilts were janglier, suggesting that they'll one day move from early 80s Felt to mid-80s Felt as their main influence.

If they had played terribly, been drunk and made you swear off indie music for life, then they'd have been like the Sea Urchins live...