Friday, 17 April 2009

Live Review: Trailer Trash Tracys, It Hugs Back, Papercuts @ The Legion, 16/4/09

Band names, like it or not, pigeonhole the groups that possess them. You could almost envisage the staid blonde pout of Trailer Trash Tracys’s Suzanne Aztoria before it appeared onstage at Sonic Cathedral. Empowered by all the frosty charisma it is possible to muster over woozy, drifting pop, Suzanne nonetheless draws the eye in what could otherwise be described as a band in the springtime of their career. All that Cocteau Twins-sounding lo-fi noise is convincing, but samey, and it’ll take more than a pretty frontwoman to set them apart as the year advances.

Meanwhile, It Hugs Back manage to so perfectly convey the wet geekery their name suggests, that everyone here feels instantly satisfied. Well, almost. This awkward four-piece appear to have been spat from the bowels of darkest Kent, etiolated and shifty-looking, all elbows and furtive glances. Their set comprises largely of material from their recently released ‘Inside Your Guitar’ LP, their first on 4AD, although there’s a good few songs here, notably ‘Other Cars Go’, that have been doing the setlist circuit for a good while longer. It’s difficult to sit either side of the fence with It Hugs Back – they are clearly an informed and innovative musical outfit with no sickening image-preoccupations, yet there’s just something about them so infuriatingly pathetic, it’s difficult to fully grasp their angle. Are we supposed to feel sorry for them?

After these humble British offerings, San Franciscan outfit Papercuts take to the stage with a kind of marked professionalism. The four-piece headed by full-time recording engineer Jason Quever are older and wiser than their line-up predecessors, and they purvey music of a markedly different class. Imbued with heady organ that pushes melodically through each track, Quever’s achievement is in rendering sixties pop songs of succinct and simple elements raw and richly-hued. He looks like a more timid Jack Black, and sings in a kind of pitch-perfect, high whine, but it all works, and the reason for this is that it comes back to solid, pop-sensible constructions and sharp, polished musical components.

The set comprises of the best of recent album ‘You Can Have What You Want’, and goes down a storm with the sparse onlookers. The rest of his band scarpers after some panicked conversation over the rapturous applause at the end – they clearly haven’t planned the encore the audience want. Eventually, Quever stands in alone, singing a rich, confident guitar-ballad that captivates all present. Their chosen name, Papercuts, might suggest the tiniest of imprints in a swamped musical pond, but it’s precisely this kind of acutely fascinating pop that makes a lasting impression among a swill of mediocrity, as tonight suggests.

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