Thursday, July 12, 2007

Animal Collective @ The Coronet 070712

Marnie Stern - when I grow up I wanna be just like her

What happens when you spend your childhood dancing to rave music, your teens discovering grunge and lo-fi, and college smoking to the sounds of Sigur Ros. You join Animal Collective.

But before I tell you about them, a word about the venue, Elephant and Castle’s Coronet. A former art-deco cinema, the Coronet is suffering from a serious case of mutton dressed as lamb. Apparently tarted up with all the red paint leftover from Koko’s facelift with a glass-fronted balcony (which gives a pretty soulless view - like watching a gig on an ice-rink - always get standing tickets) the Coronet is every inch the South London sweatbox. In its favour, it does have the cosy little raised platforms and leaning barriers so treasured at The Forum and staff who pop open the dance floor fire exits so everybody can smoke, joyfully flouting the small print of the smoking laws. And what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in plumbing, with possibly the largest number of ladies’ toilets yet found in a gig venue. But I won’t be hurrying back.

By eight o’clock the floor was filled with skinny-jeaned boys and girls in tea-dresses, and after scanning the crowd I predict a grunge fashion revival within the next 6 months – I haven’t seen that much plaid since Blossom first aired. In between beers I also realised that I was about ten years older than most people in the room, which has never happened before. Seeing as I’m going to the first wedding of one of my peers this weekend and my baby sister turns 21 next month, I think it’s time I started planning my pension. But then again, I was IDed trying to get into a pub last Saturday, and I was given a flyer for the underage festival yesterday, so perhaps I needn’t invest in sensible shoes just yet.

First band on, Late of the Pier, mumble something about having run out of money and being unable to play and then shamble off. Knowing nothing about them I didn’t take it to heart at the time. I have since heard their music and am pretty miffed. They sound like the babies of Pyschedelic Furs, Duran Duran and every lovely fly-by-night-dead-or-alive ‘80s one hit wonder you’re ever danced to – in a parallel universe I may have emerged a convert.

Marnie Stern, like, totally kicked butt, dude. Watching her, it’s as if somebody gave a Saved By The Bell cheerleader a guitar, got her drunk, made her watch Wayne’s World and then accidentally realised she was actually a genius. She’s the musical equivalent of sugar-coated crystal meth – an ethereal, spiky, sexy, snarly speed metal angel. Part giggly shambles, part twiddly guitar virtuoso, I think I can safely say that there is nobody around right now quite like Marnie Stern, and as one wise commentator writes on ravensingstheblues ‘awesome is too small a word’.

Animal Collective are an enigma. Last FM reviews for the night are rather mixed, with folk disappointed by the setlist and lack of encore. Being a curious listener as opposed to a fan, I went expecting nothing and I found them fascinating. Aside from the night I saw Mogwai, turning halfway through to see blood trickling from my beloved’s ear, I’ve never been to a gig where a band came out, no words, no hello, and made non-stop noise for an hour. Echoing swarming, psychedelic electronic sounds, the band played as if they were in some spooky shamanistic trance. I drifted in between bafflement, boredom and excitement as songs dissolved into each other. There’s not really even such a thing as a setlist with Animal Collective, just drumbeats and samples and warped, strangled vocals oozing into endless repetitions. There’s no such thing as performance, with band members singing with their back to the audience for twenty minutes, crunched and curled over their keyboards, no eye contact and apparently no concern for anybody’s enjoyment except their own. They could have been playing to a stadium of thousands or to a few friends in a bedsit. Musically, they’re the product of trance, post-punk and LSD headtrips – Mercury Rev meets Flaming Lips vocals, Beach Boys walls of sound, trance monotony and navel-gazer self-indulgence. I wouldn’t want them to be the last band on earth, but in an overcrowded and frequently bland place, their mix of audacity and awkwardness is a welcome antidote to Paolo Nutini.

Labels: , , ,


At 13 July, 2007 13:33 , Blogger minifig said...

I think I was the one given the leaflet for the underage festival, suggesting that their powers of age discrimination were far from advanced...


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home