Photos: Bríd O’Donovan
I’m really enjoying the Saturday night bookings in the The Pavilion as of late. Offering free entry, two bands, and cheap booze is a great incentive to be out and about supporting live music. Recent weeks saw some fantastic line-ups, Trumpets of Jericho and the wonderful Windings amongst others.
Tonight is no different, locals Terror Pop are set to headline the proceedings in support of ‘Wait’, the band’s third offering. Also on offer is the Dublin based Bouts, back in town after a two week hiatus for a “sneaky support slot”. Bouts went down a storm at the Triskel two weeks ago having shared the stage with Cork-based Terriers (read Emmet’s review of that gig here).
This is my first time seeing Bouts live, I was pretty keen on catching their much talked about show above but missed it up to now due to other commitments. The band’s first EP We tried really caught my attention at the end of last year. If memory serves, I believe it was the press release line “Strictly no keyboards” that caught my attention more than anything. I am a sucker for a good hook and let me the join the rest in saying they deliver it with ease. It’s funny when bands look like how they sound too – my immediate vision of them upon hearing was moppy haired telecaster slinging, matured mall rats. Bouts take to the stage just after 10pm ticking all those boxes. The last few weeks have seen Enda (a friend of the band) taking over stick duty for the absent / resident rhythm maker Daniel. It’s fair to say that this stand in replacement has his work cut out.
Although a stand in, Enda wastes no time in putting his stamp (or stomp, in this case?) on the Bouts sound. Snappy fills fall head over heels in amongst the creative genius of guitarist Colin Boylan. I was full sure that all of his parts were keyboards when I first head We tried. After reading the press release and watching this band use some of the weirdest sounding pedals this side of Wire in their heyday, I am enlightened.
Sadly tonight’s live mix leaves Boylan fighting for survival, buried beneath frontman Barry Bracken’s solid rhythm guitar. There are traces of mid 90′s all over the band but nothing is direct. The melodies are sweet and catchy like all great pop, the drums are tight and delivered with gusto and in this case the song quality speaks for itself. In a genre that sticks like glue to the stereotypical verse / chorus / middle eight / yada yada.. Bouts are constantly thinking outside the box. The standard structures are swerved with caution, instead ploughing down unexplored key changes, off kilter bass strumming awash with unique / spaced out guitar leads that work all too well. Just when you think they’re serving up the last chorus in a good old “one more time with feeling” again they swerve us, this time into a kaleidoscope of pop bliss, the harmonies are spot on, the strummed bass lines work a treat in amongst the jingle jangle guitars and the power-house drumming only reiterates that Bouts have been paying their dues. Both tracks from their latest double A side ‘Get Sick / Turn Away’ are outstanding. I could see Bouts doing very well on a label like Sub Pop if given the chance. Not only are they ticking the image box but they seem to have no problem ticking the one that really matters. Songs.
Terror Pop may be known to many under their previous moniker Agitate the Gravel. With two acclaimed singles and some relentless touring, the re branded outfit have been honing their sound for the past 18 months. Coveted opening slots with the likes of Mike Watt, Jogging and RSAG have opened them up to new audiences and a recent ‘Ones to Watch for 2012′ showcase turned plenty of heads in Whelans, Dublin. Tonight the band are here to promote their latest single ‘Wait’.
Before I go any further I have to admit that I was somewhat sceptical about reviewing Terror Pop as I felt that the band were going through that awkward transitional period. Once I got over the opening cover of Robbie Williams ‘Millennium’ delivered in Terror Pop style, I felt like I was watching three completely different bands play one set. Could it be the transition in name and change of direction? Old ATG songs mixed with fresher Terror Pop material? Or is this a band who are simply finding their way? Most bands go through it at some point and I have a sneaking suspicion that may be the answer I’m looking for.
I am new to Terror Pop and didn’t get an opportunity to see them under their previous guise, therefore I have no pre-conceived notions pre set. What I do discover over the hour is that Terror Pop, much like Bouts, can write a bloody good song. The starter is served up as off kilter noise pop, the main course is a slap up dish of shoe-gaze and dessert combines the two into what seems to work best, Terror Pop. There are elements of MBV throughout the band’s set and Muireann’s treatment of the Loveless classic ‘Only Shallow’ is a fitting tribute to an obvious influence. The set wraps up with new single ‘Wait’, and suddenly we’re back in full on pop mode. It’s a great single that does stand out among the rest of tonight’s set. It would be fair to say the songs chorus was designed to embed its “tune” status in the right hand side of the ol’ cerebrum.
I would like to see what else Terror Pop have to offer in the not too distant future. I firmly believe they’re on the rock n roll roundabout, contemplating what exit will lead them to terrorise pop just that bit further.