Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Thurs 14 June
Dead Method [below] are perhaps most distinctive for their proper vocals, crooned rather than mumbled or buried deep in the mix, which transform the Caerphilly trio’s savvy, street-smart electronica into a kind of glitchy, cyborg soul. Stage presence, however, is lacking, and the songs are much too busy. The lesson that The XX taught us, surely, was that less is very often more.
While Dead Method struggle to find their footing after stepping up to this level, 65daysofstatic [above] are – in theory at least – stooping to conquer. Tomorrow will see them play a show in the august environs of the Royal Festival Hall as part of this year’s Meltdown, having been picked by The Cure’s Robert Smith to join an illustrious lineup that also includes Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine, Low, Manic Street Preachers, Deftones and Nine Inch Nails. Presumably there won’t be any complaints about their surroundings on that occasion. Tonight, though, guitarist Joe Shrewsbury moans that Clwb Ifor’s exposed brickwork is having a detrimental effect on their sonic impact. A band griping about the physical fabric of a venue is a new one on me, I must admit, and it does smack of bad workmen complaining about their tools; after all, it’s not as if countless other bands of a similar ilk haven’t played here before and succeeded in leaving a lasting impression on both eardrums and memories.
On record, 65daysofstatic often come across as an adventurous outfit whose willingness to dip significantly more than merely a toe in the waters of electronica is a large part of what makes them worthy of attention. This warm-up performance, though, is exactly that: a series of repetitive exercises suggestive of a band concerned only to gently stretch and limber up ahead of the main event rather than to risk pushing themselves to any kind of extreme prematurely.
Post-rock clichés abound: a couple of songs from a soundtrack they’ve written (but of course); piano chords used as a form of shorthand for profundity; a lack of vocals that wouldn’t seem so striking if the band hadn’t pitched up in the city in the midst of the Festival Of Voice, or if (odd moments like Crash Tactics aside) their music alone had sufficient drama or dynamics to captivate without the need for an additional point of interest.
Perhaps, though, I should rein in the grumpiness, acknowledge that my feeling is more one of disappointment than of outright dislike, and be more grateful that 65daysofstatic have deigned to pay us a visit. After all, they’re infinitely preferable to suffering involuntary exposure to sound pollution from the Stereophonics’ Cardiff City Stadium gig or the bone-chilling prospect of a four-night Millennium Stadium residency from Ed Sheeran. But when Shrewsbury talks about how a pre-gig cold-brew coffee blew his mind, it only underlines that nothing his band seem capable of doing live can come close to blowing mine.
words BEN WOOLHEAD photos THEODORE SWADDLING