It was a low-key, lo-fi, New York-y gig at the Brudenell last Thursday, with no drummer to be seen, but electric guitars a-plenty. The support came from Quarterbacks, who, embarking on a solo tour, has lovingly dubbed himself Quarterboy. When he comes out with what are disarmingly simple songs with lilting melodies, he seems like he’s talking in the verses before reaching and hitting high notes in the chorus only briefly and with an unexpected clarity. Whilst some singer-songwriters can benefit from the fleshing-out that a full band offers, I find the extra layers detract from the real star-quality of Quarterbacks. The Brudenell audience loved him because of his Woody Allen-esque lyrics and his lovely melodies, anything else would distract from that.
Girlpool’s simple set up, with their lack of drummer and fancy effects pedals, might lull you into a false impression of them. The instrumentation is bare and the guitar parts are only simple picked notes, not even chords, but the band come packed with vocal performances that’d make those on The X Factor hide their heads in shame. The beauty of their vocals comes from the fact that, though both members sing at all times, their voices are so similar you can’t tell it’s more than one singer until the melodies start drifting away from each other in perfect harmony. What’s more impressive is that their songs aren’t sung but shouted – they’re ferocious and punky but always harmonic. It’s like an unholy amalgamation of Pavement’s slacker-cool and the Beach Boys’ vocal meticulousness. The guitar lines are loveably lazy and dreamy, giving the impression that these girls have only just picked up guitars in order to express these vitriolic feelings of teen angst. Their anger is one at being ignored, being alienated and “feeling like I don’t have a place” as they mumble on Chinatown. But, as they finish their set with ‘Emily’, screaming “I’m still here!/ Remember me!” you’ve got to think there’s no chance of them being forgotten about any time soon. On that Thursday night at the Brudenell, teenage awkwardness has never sounded so sweet.
photo: Alice Baxley