One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.
Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.
One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.
One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!
Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:
- In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
- Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
- The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
- They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
- They just keep getting better!
- They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?
Alvvays at Barboza, Seattle | 2 December 2014
Alvvays‘ debut album which was recorded by Chad VanGaalen is a subtle dreamy affair and one of the better records to come out this year. It has elements of shoegaze, but really it’s singer Molly Rankin that makes the record so good. Her voice has a vulnerability to it, while at the same time a strength to it. It’s like she’s singing for her life, but doesn’t want to be too obvious about it.
Their show in Neumo’s basement earlier this week was sold out and the band were obviously chuffed about it. Even going as far to say in their heady delight that it was better than the Portland show the night before. Live they have a more substantial sound probably because of the twin guitar attack and Molly Rankin formidable voice that sounds stronger live and loses some of its vulnerability but still sounds great. Kids were pogoing and moshing for most of the set which seemed a bit odd because Alvvays could never be interpreted as a punk or a party band. Dudes who mosh to dreampop I assume have a poor sense of direction and walked into the wrong show. Nevertheless, they went especially went crazy for Archie, Mary Me which is the stand out song on the album, but still not noshing material. The show sort of reminded me of seeing Belly back around when Star had come out where there were bros moshing while couples snuggled together at the edges. Like Belly, Alvvays seem to have that that crossover appeal that brings out the bros, the lovers and this aging indie kids like myself.
For their encore they included a surprising cover of Out of Reach by the Primitives. I’m not sure how many of the youngsters recognized it, but it was exciting to hear a deep cut from an overlooked band. Like the rest of the set, Alvvays added a bit of grit to their version but the innate pop of the song shown through.
A few things about the Factory Floor show last night:
1. The name Factory Floor conjures up many connotations. The Factory part evokes Manchester’s Factory Records and the austere and eccentric sounds from so many releases on the that classic label. The name also makes me think of dilapidated rusting out buildings where formerly existed the engines of capitalism, or if you aren’t a pessimist maybe you think of present day hangars where jumbo jets are made, or air the tight pristine confines of computer chip factories. It all contributes to what this London based trio sound like.
2. Factory Floor are a band. You might not get that impression listening to their self-titled debut album from last year. Although two thirds of the band stood behind tables of electronics last night poking nobs like old Ma Bell connecting long distance phone calls you could tell by their eye contact that they were synced up.
3. Early on New Order drummer Stephen Gilbert remixed their track Wooden Box solidifying a connection with Factory Records. I remember seeing New Order in the late 80’s a couple times and Gilbert would alternate between playing drums for a song or two and punching some buttons and grabbing a glass of water and walking off to the side of the stage for a for a break while the rest of the band played. The songs when he actually played drums where always the better ones and Factory Floor seem to understand that a live drummer makes for a better song as well. Set up on one side of the stage the drummer was the catalyst of the set and made the songs crackle and with extreme punctuation.
3. Singer, guitarist and button pusher Nik Colk played her guitar with a bow like some prog rocker. When she sang what came out was undecipherable, like a robot version of Nico singing in binary.
4. Factory Floor make dance music for people who don’t normally dance. Maybe because they are heavily influenced by bleak post punk, they draw more of a rocker crowd. At least, last night the room appeared to be filled with more rockers than dancers, but the hypnotic bouncy grooves that they laid down had most everyone at the very least with their bobbing their heads. A few times I felt my body unconsciously start moving and I looked down and I was dancing. How did they do that?
5. Most of my past experiences seeing electronic groups live have been underwhelming because frankly watching someone turn nobs and stare intently at their laptop is hard to get excited about. Factory Floor, by incorporating live drums and guitar with their nob turning and a minimal amount of laptop gazing made their live show something not to be missed. The songs extended beyond their recorded versions into expeditions into the unknown and the band pulled off a rare feat for an electronic group, they are better live than on record.
stream: Factory Floor – How You Say (from DFA Records)
Sometimes you meet a microphone stand that you just want to fight. Last night at Barboza, moody post punkers Weekend were scheduled to play. Their alter ego’s who don’t seem to give a fuck are who actually played. I don’t know if bassist and singer Shaun Durkan had taken the wrong elixir or was off on a bad trip, but he appeared to be in an erratic state almost from the start of his band’s set. During the first song of their set the mic stand went floppy, drooping down to his knees, Durkan seemed slightly perturbed by this, but not too upset. The guitarist came over to fix it in the middle of the song and all was good.
Not quite. Durkan then proceeded to grab the mic stand and wrestle with it. Apparently the stand was more stable than he was, because he lost his balance in the mic melee and bounded out into the audience, in the process whacking his bass against the monitor and then the floor. Song over. He picks up the pieces of the mic and his bass with the help of the band and the Barboza sound guys. He tries to tune his bass only to discover that one of the tuning nobs is bent so badly that he can’t tune it. He hurls some incoherent insults at the audience and then asks with a smirk if anyone has a bass he can borrow. Nobody is eagerly volunteering their instrument having seen the damage he’s done to his own guitar so the band proceed to play another song with the broken bass and no vocals since the mic seems to have lost round one. The bass player from the opening band Haunted Horses takes pity and bravely offers up his bass. Another song is played with the loaner bass but the mic still doesn’t work. Durkan is visibly annoyed that the mic could not withstand his attack, so he walks off the stage at the end of the song. The rest of the band look like they’re not sure what to do so they walk off the stage while the sound guys fix stuff.
Eventually Weekend come back out and play End Times and everything seems ok, but not for long. Coma Summer is next and it looks like Durkan wants to fight the mic stand again. It’s almost a like a total replay of the first round, except this time he’s fighting with someone else’s bass guitar. Not Ok. The sound guy rushes to the stage, grabs the bass from Durkan and walks off with it. Show over.
Upset that he didn’t get the chance to destroy someone else’s instrument, Durkan grabs his board of effects pedals and lifts it above his head and slams it to the stage. House lights, queue exodus. Not quite. Durkan comes back out yelling at nobody in particular and lumbers to the merch booth where he hopes to sell some t-shirts and records. Worst show I’ve seen since the Fall in 94 at the Black Cat in DC.
I missed first opener Haunted Horses, but caught Cities Aviv who is really just a guy and a laptop. He’s from Memphis and makes industrial noise come from his laptop. Sometimes it was abrasive loud, sometimes it was ambient loud. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but it sounded cool.