A powerful, familiar beat fills the air, I recognize the sound of the Kanye West hit Monster as the crowd packed into Queen st. west’s Wrongbar eagerly anticipates what’s going to happen next. Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper enter stage left with huge grins on their face, and the audience cheers as they introduce Lovely cup and burst into song. They proceed to deliver one of the most passionate, energetic shows I’ve ever been privileged enough to witness and I’m blown away by their genuine happiness and appreciation of playing at a packed venue like this. The amount of people who have come to see Grouplove have far surpassed my expectations. I guess word spreads fast in Toronto when you hear some positive music for once. The band seems flattered, and impressed by the size of the crowd. If I had known it would have been so packed I would have arrived in time to see the opening band Reptar.
Grouplove’s new tour companions Reptar seem to be respected immensely and praised by Christian throughout their own set onstage. It’s nice to see mutual support of fellow indie bands. Highlights of the show included a wicked drums solo where drummer Ryan Rabin pounds away with glowing drumsticks and intensity amidst flashing strobe effects. An unexpected Whitney Houston tribute by Christian broke out when he spontaneously started singing “I wanna dance with somebody” that had the whole audience enthused, bouncing around and singing along.
After the crowd starts earnestly chanting Grouplove in order to bring them back onstage for an encore, I half expect them to come back turning cartwheels and performing back handsprings. They really are that exuberant and joyful. I can’t imagine them ever arguing or being overly critical with one another. Their energy is palpable and infectious. Everyone around me has huge smiles on their faces. They all share the spotlight as each member gets introduced and applauded. I love that each member seems to be an essential component to making the band work. Hannah and Christian have the sort of chemistry that seems to inspire each other as well as the crowd. When they finally played Tongue-tied and closed with Colours, the crowd was pulsing with good vibes. Never have I been to a show where I dropped my bag and my sweater and multiple phones lit up in order to help me search for my lost items. It was as if they influenced us all to be more considerate, peaceful and happy. I really could not have asked for a better show although it did seem much too short. Most likely because I could watch them for hours on end and remain riveted by their stage presence and charismatic uplifting tunes.
Grouplove is as honest as it gets. No gimmicks, attitude or affected boredom and pretentiousness with these guys, just genuine happiness and unity all around. Listening to their music is awesome in itself but seeing them perform live is like being swept up by a hurricane that transports you someplace far better than you ever were before.
Anyone who decides to name their band, The Naked and Famous probably isn’t taking themselves too seriously and expecting to become famous unless they really are planning to strip down to their birthday suits and flash unsuspecting civilians. But there was no need for the members of TNAF to succumb to porn or flashing to gain attention within the indie rock scene.
In case you didn’t know TNAF are a post-punk/synth-pop quintet from New Zealand, whose name was inspired by one of their musical influences Tricky. Their name itself is attention grabbing enough and chosen because of a line in one of Tricky’s songs where he repeats that everyone just wants to get naked and famous. Yet it’s their catchy, electric tunes that will make them a memorable fixture in your head. The band originally formed in Auckland’s MAINZ music college when Thom Powers met Alisa Xayalith, and from there everything just fell into place. In 2010, they delivered a strong debut studio album Passive Me Aggressive You that has received several nominations and awards. Their music has been featured on television series like Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries, in video games and sampled by other artists. Their huge commercial hit Young Blood was even sampled by the likes of Machine Gun Kelly which created some bad blood between the musicians about copyright infringement via numerous tweets from MGK and TNAF. But the samples could never compare to the real thing, the album is worth listening to if you haven’t heard it yet. The energetic fast paced electric tunes accompanied by insightful lyrics has definitely become a favourite of mine.
So needless to say I was incredibly excited to see their name posted amongst new concert listings at Rotate This. I snatched up my tickets fast before they sold out and waiting in agony for April 5 to arrive so I could witness the awesomeness of TNAF live. I wasn’t disappointed. They opened up with All of this, one of the best tracks on the album and the crowd loved it. Singing along, hands waving in rhythm to the beat, people pressed forward and got lost in the performance. I was amazed by how many people knew the words and I watched transfixed as they sang my favourite part…
As the plans turn into compromise
the promises all turn to lies
the spite builds up
and it can’t get through
Passive me, Aggressive you
I know I nag, I moan I know
but with a plan like this
it’s way too slow
in the time it took to get this here
I could have made this work
but all I had was…
the hope that pieces would take shape
and we could watch them all fall into place…
a complicated sing-along to pull off but I guess when you have devoted fans like these, it can be done. Alisa was flawless, conveying meaning through expressive hand gestures and sidling up to Thom. Head bobbing to Punching in a Dream and swaying to The Sun I was in a perfect state of bliss. Especially when Thom sang a heart wrenching delivery of Girls Like You. The whole set seemed to fly by much too fast although they played every song from the album. Impressive yet I was hoping that they’d interact with the audience more. But I guess they preferred to express themselves through their music and expressive hand gestures and melodic swaying. The light show definitely helped increase the excitement and kept the crowd happy. I even heard they’d be autographing merchandise after the show but after the spectacle of their encore where they closed with Young Blood I was satisfied. Nothing could have made it a better night. I came, I saw, I left on cloud 9.
As a songwriter and lead vocalist, there’s no question Alex Turner is well known for his acute observations and poetic phrases that make it easy for fans to quote favourite lines to express exactly how they feel about their personal infatuations, insecurities and disillusionment. And although some may claim the fourth album Suck it and See lacks the witty wordplay and piercing metaphors of past albums, I believe the melodies and arrangements more than make up for any absence of wit. It also seems next to impossible to listen to these addictive tracks while sitting still. NME rated the album a 9 out of 10 and calls it intelligent, love-steeped songcraft. An album in love with language, that sounds unique, sophisticated and strangely timeless.
She’s Thunderstorms is the perfect choice for the opening track, setting a melodic, romantic tone for the rest of the album. She came and substituted the peace and quiet for acrobatic blood flow concertina, is adulation at its best for an unattainable muse. When you’re feeling far away, she does what the night does to day, this love Turner sings about is all encompassing and reminds me of a time when love was all consuming and empty promises. Brick by Brick is an intense, gritty garage rock and roll tune that slows down and speeds up with perfect precision. Simple and fun this single once released seemed like a calculated move to throw fans off of what they expected for the fourth album. But there was no need to fear, this track is quite a detour from the majority of songs on the album, apart from Don’t Sit down Because I’ve moved your Chair. So all the uppity, Indie rock fans who hate the new Arctic Monkey’s style won’t have too much to complain about. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala is an upbeat, pop ditty that will have you singing along to the chorus all day long. My favourite lines are…Did you ever get the feeling, that these are things she’s said before? Her steady hands may well have done the devil’s pedicure what you waiting for? Sing another Fucking Shalalala!!! I just cant get that one out of my head, it’s too infectious.
Their sound had once been described as lumbering, stoner rock heavily influenced by Josh Hommes on the Humbug album. Although Suck it and See isn’t quite a return to their original sound, it is a solid collection of mid-tempo rhythms and guitar riffs as beautifully demonstrated on Library Pictures. Jamie Cook shows off his evolution on guitar with this album, and even received a comparison to Johnny Marr, guitarist for The Smiths by one reviewer. If I had to describe the sounds of Suck It and See, I’d summarize it as wistful, nostalgic, Indie rock. Reckless Serenade is another favourite of mine that captures that sense of clumsy carefree abandon as, the type of kisses where teeth collide. The ideal little ditty about the constant need for someone who illuminates your life and becomes your obsession, so that you loose all your wits and sing a reckless serenade.
Turner’s lyrics have a tendency to portray exactly what it feels like to be young, clever and in love. His depictions of love and alienation make their songs easy to relate to. Don’t take it so personally, You’re not the only one that time has got it in for… wise words from closing track That’s where you’re wrong.
Despite unrestrained criticism from Uncut, they still had this to say about the album “Even the biggest Arctics fan wouldn’t have suggested beauty among the band’s key qualities. But Suck It And See is full of beautiful tunes, beautifully played and beautifully produced. It’s a record that goes a long way toward breathing new life into the busted flush of English indie with a romantic Britpop sound that stands comparison with The Smiths, The La’s and New Order.” Seems like a good bit of praise for an album that was burdened by so many expectations and a diffused fan base after the release of Humbug. From what I’ve heard I like the off beat path the Arctic Monkeys have taken, they seem to be leaving a trail of admirers behind. They did warn us they are not what people say they are, so why not discover this record for yourself and form your own conclusions. In my opinion they are quite simply Brilliant.
1. She’s Thunderstorms
2. Black Treacle
3. Brick by Brick
4. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
5. Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
6. Library Pictures
7. All My Own Stunts
8. Reckless Serenade
9. Piledriver Waltz
10. Love is a Laserquest
11. Suck It and See
12. That’s Where You’re Wrong