30th May | Fleece
Photo: Laure Noverraz
There’s been a resurgence of self-identified DIY artists rising to the surface of the alternative music scene. As any modern musician without a side job is something of an anomaly, it’s hardly surprising that artists are reluctant to shell out on studio recordings when they could get ProTools and a second-hand microphone for the same price. In exchange for industry crispness, they gain a fuzzy authenticity, and from the corrosive critiques of IDLES to the laid-back lilt of Mac DeMarco, a certain intimacy comes with the territory. This intimacy was lacking at The Fleece on Wednesday night.
Londoners Value Void had all the hallmarks of an up-and-coming DIY act. Normcore punk aesthetic? Check. Stripped distorted sound? Check. Album coming out on vinyl? Check. Despite these paint-by-numbers features, Value Void seemed slightly absent. The singer looked shell-shocked, showing little emotion and avoiding the audience’s eye like we were charity fundraisers on her commute.
The mic was too quiet to discern any lyrics, and so we were left with just glimpses of vocals that sound great on record. Their debut release, Back In The Day (which went unintroduced), was easily the stand-out track of the set. With unsettling melodies over a relentlessly mechanical guitar riff, it cut through the fog of their set and showed the crowd what Tough Love Records saw in them.
While the term ‘hipster’ feels dated, it fit the Frankie Cosmos crowd, with more dungarees on display than a farm during the Great Depression, and at least four girls who were dead ringers for Frankie Cosmos’s lead singer, Greta Kline. The New York band have released two strong albums in two years and when the band kicked off with ‘Caramelised,’ the opener from the latest release, Vessel, the crowd were singing along, and Kline radiated charm.
Quirkily twee enough to be popular in the US and unhappy enough to popular in Britain, her songs are ruthlessly catchy. But by the time she finished her third or fourth track, it began to feel like her mind was on something else and there were pockets of chatter punctuating her songs.
Kline kiboshed this with a shout-out to a local vegan restaurant. With this crowd, it definitely worked and she soon had the audience shuffling along enthusiastically to her confessionals. The band were on the right side of slacker, with tight drum fills and steady, firm bass lines providing a fitting counterpoint to Kline’s endearing voice and Gretchen Grundler charm.
Though a couple of songs felt a little formulaic, her big tracks, like ‘Jesse,’ ‘On The Lips,’ and ‘Fool,’ were genuinely brilliant. The crowd sang every word of the latter, but after finishing the track, Kline immediately started talking about an “innovation” that had struck her – to have the crowd looking down on the performer – like at the Coliseum, perhaps. “That’s just something I was thinking about,” she said.
Frankie Cosmos’s songs are built on a stream-of-consciousness feel, with lyrics like, “Feeling pretty far from home/so I stop to write this down.” Like Value Void, Kline didn’t seem to truly be with her audience, or even the songs she was singing, nor did she satisfy the crowd’s chants for an encore. She was away with her thoughts, off inventing the amphitheatre, perhaps already moving away from last year’s songs, the ones that were loaded with emotion and power when recorded in her bedroom.