Cults August 2011

Cults, Dolfins & The Daytonas – The Tunnels 30/08/11

This gig had been rescheduled from a Friday in June (when I was off work) to today when, true to form, I was working. Consequently it was the usual rush to get home, changed, fed and through to Aberdeen for anything remotely like gig time. The Daytonas were already well through their set by the time I arrived at The Tunnels. It was pleasing to see that it was well attended for a mid-weeker, not packed but healthily full.


The band onstage looks unfeasibly young (or maybe it’s just that you’re unfeasibly old – FnS Ed). The singer guitarist, with his checked shirt and floppy fringe reminds me a bit of a youthful Edwyn Collins and there’s a Postcard-ishness about them, with their spiky, trebly sound. It’s more modern sounding than that though, more contemporary, with the local accent more pronounced. There’s a hint of Arctic Monkeys maybe, but a bigger swipe of something like Los Campesinos, with their manic energy and contemporary punky sound. The four songs I catch are all excellent, both instantly memorable and toe-tapping. Despite their obvious tender years, the guys are confident and assured in their performance without being too flash. Rocking without being rockist. I’m pretty blown away, happy in the knowledge that I’ve found my new favourite local band. It’s therefore pretty gutting when my mate tells me it’s their last gig, with the guys presumably going their separate ways in the name of further education. The Daytonas – you shoulda seen them.

Damn them pesky White Stripes and the monster they created. We have yet another two piece band up next, maybe the fourth or fifth I’ve seen over the last 18 months or so. This one is called Dolfins and features a singing guitarist and a singing drummer. Shit sub-Nirvana punk songs, shit guitar sound, shit drum sound, shit flat vocals. All in all they’re shit. A waste of a support slot in my opinion. Or at least they should have been the opening act meaning I’d have missed most of their set and caught all of The Daytonas one. Shit.

There’s been a fair bit of media hype sprung up around Cults since they crept into our consciousness about a year ago. The duo bestowed their first single, the wonderful Go Outside, on the unsuspecting world via their Bandcamp page. That the song now crops up on TV with increasing regularity soundtracking ads for cider and future TV series suggests that Cults will not remain a cult for too long. The seemingly continual referencing in the music weeklies of their impending debut album, eventually released earlier this summer, meant it would really have to be quite something to match the anticipation.

I have to confess to being underwhelmed when I bought the album. It was good, maybe even very good, but there was a sameyness to it that concerned me and I wondered if Cults might be a bit of a one trick pony. Live however, it’s a different kettle of fish. It’s the same songs – ostensibly they play the album – but they sound different somehow. There’s a greater degree of separation between the fragility of Madeline Follin’s vocals, the delicate glockenspiel work, and the booming bass and drums. This expansion of the sound allows the individual songs to better stand out and shows a greater variety between them than in the confines of the album itself.

As a skewed projection of the Robert Mitchum black & white classic, Night Of The Hunter, plays out on the backdrop, the Cults duo (augmented for the live show by bass, drums and a multi-instrumentalist) quietly and self-consciously assemble onstage and weave their magic. Well, it might not be magic, but it’s bloody good. They deconstruct the classic sounds of 60’s girl-groups like the Ronettes or the Crystals into their component parts, stripping away the superfluous layers. They then fuse it with some dubby hip-hop beats, synth drones and other-worldly FX laden vocals and build it all up again into something of their own. You’ll get a hint of Tamla Motown here, a hint of traditional Mandarin music there, then it’s whisked away again before it has time to settle. You’ll get a verse that sounds a bit like Ladytron – maybe the only obvious comparison – but then the chorus zooms off in another direction all together.

It’s an intriguing mix and one that obviously sits well with the Aberdeen crowd as they give the band a great reception, cheering and clapping every song with gusto. The only downside is when they sing along (badly), drowning out Follin whose vocals could have been doing with a wee lift at times throughout the set. That’s the only grumble about the sound I have though as it was otherwise perfect. Loud and clear with a bottom end that was literally shaking the walls down by the stage.

An outbreak of synchronised dancing in the upper tier of the Tunnels draws comment from the stage and the rest of the crowd then follows suit, waving arms aloft for the rest of the set. The band seem bemused and genuinely surprised by the reception they’re getting and flash nervous grins at each other when they think we’re not looking. Endearing stuff. Equally as endearing is when, after a short and sweet 40 minute set, they announce the last song. “We’re not gonna muck about, come on in five minutes and play another one. It really is the last song, we have no more!” Once it’s done, there’s a rapturous response while the band congregate in a corner of the Tunnels stage looking sheepish but that really, really is it. I’m in the car and on the road back to Peterhead by 10.37, job done.

At one point in the set, when Madeline stated it was the first gig they’d played in Scotland, her partner-in-crime, Brian Oblivion, chimed in saying it was also the first gig they’d played in a Tunnel. Here’s hoping it’s not the last.

New York Johnny

Cults Website

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