Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Wools of sound

Bikini Atoll and House of Love, the Astoria, 5 July

Bikini Atoll would dearly love to be American, lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Gideon often affecting a New York twang between song or in the lyrics. Their sound is the post-Velvets noise-rock so beloved of many a disaffected man in a black shirt. They usually have two guitars or one with a wall of keyboards/effects generators on the go. It’s a done sound certainly, but the Atoll, two albums in on UK indie Bella Union – the last produced by Albini, do manage to inject some urgency, studiously avoiding either the British solipsism in this strand. It’s this thrust that keeps it interesting, otherwise the sound would dissolve into a very familiar sonic stew.

House of Love did a set that went from mild favourites through newies and lastly the classics. The post-Levitation Terry Bickers seemed lean and hungry, while Guy Chadwick looked like he has been working in a Soho post-production unit or the lower rungs of a record company.

A fringed boy angles his head up and down while others soak up the riffs. Seeing this and hearing all those chiming guitars threw me back, conjuring up the 1988-91 indie world, which never existed as it was imagined even then. You realise that this sound/these tales of unrequited love/the overall package, almost had to be marketed as an “indie” marginalised thing back then – if it was the 60s, then it would have been relevant, but not in 1988… we demanded more (was this ever considered to be ambitious?). If they’d come out post-Oasis, they would have been big.

As the place filled out for The Dears, the girls were much more attractive than that bygone/imagined indie world, but the boys if anything were much uglier, much more uniform due to the sportswear and ale guts. Despite the crystalline beauty of the songs on record, what was also apparent from HoL live is how basic the delivery was – Christine’s riff a two-note piece of luck. Two merely competent guitarists clang out the riffs, not too noisy not too clean, the method a precursor to later no-marks like The Catherine Wheel, even the indie dancers of the Charlatans and later chancers such as Cast. They didn’t play Shine On.
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