Wait, what? A lo-fi guitar pop band with a repeating, unnecessary consonant in their name? That concept is completely new to me! My mind is blown.
But seriously, if there’s a market research demographic for “person who will probably end up at anything Foggy or Skinny Wolves put on featuring a lo-fi guitar pop band with a repeating, unnecessary consonant in their name”, I’m in it. I’m a stereotype. So be it. Some are better than others. At some stage I will stay away. But the added draw of a post-Tony Higgins era So Cow show made this particular one attractive enough to attend.
Apparently the last time So Cow played with Nodzzz (during the Tony Higgins era), Nodzzz went on first, then So Cow, and then Girls. It was in San Francisco. People in San Francisco are spoiled. People in all cities far away seem to be spoiled, but we do what we can.
The third band in Dublin wasn’t quite Girls, but the Mighty Atomics (who went on first, reversing the SF order) did a sterling job playing to an empty but quietly filling upstairs in Whelans. There are, unavoidably, elements of pastiche in their pure, un-scuzzy 60s garage rock sound, but they wear it lightly and, compared with the heavily affected, boring mess that comes out of some other Irish “garage” homage, it’s a different world.
They’re a three-piece, guitar, bass and drums. There’s something appealing about a guitar sound that is unapologetically loud, taking up all the space like only a power-trio guitarist can. It reminds me a little of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists when they toured here as a three-piece, the way that Ted (with a similar hollowbody) had this massive, beautiful guitar sound, more loud than distorted. So yeah. Mighty Atomics. Not something I’d listen to every day maybe, but I wouldn’t be sad if they supported the next thing I saw.
Next was So Cow – there was a period of ambiguity there where So Cow began to also refer to the band as well as just Brian, but such trinitarian thought may no longer be necessary. Featuring a cast of underground all-stars (Bobby No Monster Club on fake drums, Jimmy Music For Dead Birds on fake bass, Big Monster Love singing on the cover of his own Little Bear’s Song), it was nonetheless back to So Cow with So Cow’s longest-serving backing band member: reliable Korean mp3 player.
There are few bigger So Cow fans than me, but I don’t think anyone would deny that it’s a step down in energy from the live three piece to the pretend-live three piece. Still, it’s a return to the days when you’d never be sure what you were going to get from a So Cow show until you actually showed up. This one was about 15% physical comedy (especially Bobby miming programming the fake-drums on Girl Racer instead of miming playing them), 20% stand-up, and 65% great music.
Girl Racer, from Tuam: The Album: “Girl racer, driving through the estates of my heart”. Little Bear’s Song, making its live emergence from the Covers EP. One for the trainspotter’s ledger, and great fun, if not quite as bowled-over-brilliant as the Deerhoof gig.
As for Nodzzz themselves… I’m not massively familiar with their back catalogue. By which I mean that I had no familiarity whatsoever with their back catalogue, and was there on the strength of vague recommendations and the fact that So Cow was supporting. And it takes a little more these days in the lo-fi guitar pop end of things to keep me excited, being as we are at the far end of that particular sun-spot-flare in the history of indie music.
It was good though. I think the first thing I noticed about Nodzzz as opposed to everyone else is that their guitars are clean. Like, militantly clean. Doctrinally clean. The kind of guitar sound that everyone else would have just put a TOUCH of gain on to make the edge less blunt when you whack a chord.
But that’s their deal. Maybe, like Gang of Four, they have a list of taboo stuff tacked to their rehearsal room wall. Or more likely, they don’t. It’s nice though. Well… it’s either nice, or it’s cynical, and listening back to their stuff now, I think it could almost be cynical, like the music box sound on Kid A. It’s pop deconstructed to its most basic level, like a lot of the lo-fi fuzz crew, but it’s not put back together louder or more aggressive. It’s fun, but it’s also not dumb. It knows what it’s doing.
In retrospect, listening back, their recorded guitars actually do distort a bit, so maybe that line of inquiry is just a result of circumstance. However.
I’d go to see Nodzzz again, and I’d like to be more familiar with their stuff, starting with the 7″ I got. Maybe next time will be in The Mission wedged between Wavves and Grand Pocket Orchestra. That’s very, very unlikely though. It’ll be in the same place (hello upstairs in Whelans), with the same people (hello Bobby, hello Adam). But there is a reason why we listen to this stuff in the first place I suppose, so there are worse things to do than be the people who go see guitar pop.