Back to the grind in Dublin with no money, but that just means you have to be ready when opportunity knocks. Instores in Tower are to the casual Irish music fan what Marks & Spencers closing time is to freegans, and when there’s a chance to go see a band you’ve been waiting to see for free, there’s no reason not to jump at it.
Squarehead have been around a while, floating peripherally into my field of vision at Hefty Horse gigs in Anseo, in conversation and in MySpace top 8s (in the long, long ago). They were good, too, or seemed like they had the potential to be. But it felt like they blew up (such that you can blow up in a scene that seems at times to consist of about 80 people) over the summer after their inclusion on the Popical Island #1 compilation with the obvious piece of shamble-pop genius that is Fake Blood. That’s their arc, in my head. And I hadn’t seen them since this happened, so I shuffled down to Tower from my perch in House 6.
They’re lots of fun. I’ve said several times before in posts I am not energetic enough to find and link to that I have a soft spot for the power-trio. Mighty Atomics were one. So Cow, in various incarnations, are another. Three-piece Ted Leo is pretty much the be-all. Squarehead are a little like that, but not a lot.
The chord patterns are simple, falling somewhere between the memory-surf-wave thing (from Girls to Wavves via No Monster Club, say) and the 1990s-Weezer-revival thing (e.g. Surfer Blood), expedited on a guitar that must be the most college indie pop thing that’s ever existed: a Danelectro that looks like a Mustang. Sometimes Roy (who was formerly Squarehead by himself) will pull off on a lead guitar break, with the crunchy chords disappearing and the focus falling on the melody. Harmonies are paramount, and they’re flawed, not like the ubiquitous Brian Wilson-Noah Lennox comparison, but more in the 60s-teen-garage-band-who-have-heard-Beach Boys-singles kind of way.
Some songs are better than others. This is the consummate indie pop trio, and as with any band who go for The Best Indie Pop Song every time they write, it’s going to be more about melody and immediacy than variety. Many are excellent, a few seem lacking spark. But the highlight (and closer) is clear, and Paddy Power stopped taking bets on it some time in July: Fake Blood.
With drummer (and Mr Popical himself) Ruan Van Vliet placing a tambourine on the hi-hat – literally just putting it there, not screwing it on, he’s not Larry Mullen, are you mad? – they tear into it, and it’s as sad and uplifting as a song can be. It’s the 7″ they were promoting too, and if there’s ever been a song to own on 7″ this is it, so if you don’t have it, go get it. They’re numbered, so go quickly and get a low one. Although admittedly I took a higher one than I could have just to avoid those COVER ART RUINING GIANT TOWER STICKERS.
So there you have it. Back in Dublin.