Maybe it’s all the Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac in the office these past few weeks, but there’s a lot of “Tusk” in the air at Club Uncut tonight. The gated tribal rumbles, the lush, clenched-teeth harmonies, the general air of progressive pop.
It begins with The Week That Was, Peter Brewis’ meticulous hybrid of ‘80s artpop, post-punk and a soupcon of post-rock. What’s most striking, as they open proceedings at our biggest club night yet, is how much the quartet (featuring, unless my eyes deceive me, Johnny X from Kenickie on guitar, vibes and occasional drum, as well as Brewis’ brother David from Field Music/School Of Language) manage to recreate the fastidious studio sound of their album.
In fact, that’s all they do. The Week That Was turn up and play the seven songs from the record in order, as faithfully as they can without the presence of strings and horns, without any mucking about. It’s impressive, not least because of the complexities of this music, with the intricate timeshifts, booming ‘80s drums , Mackem gamelan vibes, stentorian Heaven 17 backing vocals and so on. There are two drummers to provide that Mel Gaynor thunder on the opening “Learn To Learn”, while David Brewis manages to channel Mick Fleetwood pretty effectively on his own during “The Airport Line”.
That song’s the highlight of the set, not coincidentally because it strays furthest from the recorded template, as a clanking math-rock guitar duel replaces the chamber string passages. While it seems a bit churlish to criticise a band for reproducing live the uptight precision of their recorded sound, I can’t help thinking that The Week That Was could do with, if not exactly loosening up, at least boosting their live show a bit.
Yeasayer might draw on some of the same sounds, but they’re much less formal in the way they reproduce them. In front of a notably ardent crowd, they manage to retain all the intricacies of “All Hour Cymbals”, but somehow evolve them into something that’s more vivacious, kinetic, and – in current Brooklyn tradition – with a much heavier tribal beat at the centre of it all.
Those huge drums are pushed right to the foreground of the mix, followed by basslines that occasionally, extraordinarily, seem to mimic the patterns of hi-life guitar. Add in a constant ambience of rustle, woosh and hoot that calls to mind Byrne & Eno’s “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” and Peter Gabriel’s “The Passion”, reverberant four-part harmonies, a guitarist who spends most of his time fiddling with discreet loops, and a singer who comes across, buffeted around the stage, like a perfect David Byrne clone, and you’ve got the ultimate 2008 art-rock band.
They sound amazing, too. “No Need To Worry” is, on one level, absurdly bombastic, but the power of the staccato chorale and giant stadium thump is intensified by Anand Wilder finally letting rip a great wallowing guitar solo, that puts his general stealth into powerful context. “Wait For The Summer” has the chattering, exotic intensity of, yep, “Tusk” and, for well over an hour, Yeasayer manage to sustain an air of transporting, exhilarating virtuosity.
Songs start like The Aphex Twin and end up as psychedelic Afrobeat. People dance – something of a first at Club Uncut. And the experiments and possibilities – as opposed to the latent hipster pretensions – of the current Brooklyn uprising come zooming into focus. A superb show, then, but we would say that. Anyone else come?