Thursday, 21 January 2010

632 THE STILLS, The Walkman, Oxford Zodiac, Sunday 25 April 2004

A quick bop down to Oxford to see an intriguing new band, purveyors of my favourite new music in 2004 with the CD "Logic Will Break Your Heart" and splendid single "Lola Stars And Stripes". Touted as this years' Strokes - hopefully only from a potential/ popularity standpoint! Anyway, Rachel and I hit the sold-out venue at 8, and support act The Walkmen came on promptly after we arrived. They were hampered by poor sound but didn't help their own cause by deliberately distorting their vocals and terrible keyboard noise. I whacked my earplugs in to clean up the glare - I've had it with getting my ears tortured by poor support bands!

Rach and I took a position by the viewing platform, stage left, where it was thankfully less crowded. The Stills came on earlier than their scheduled 9.30 to the strains of Luna's atmospheric, breathy "Bonnie And Clyde", and were immediately impressive, playing "Lola" second number in, its' moody atmospherics and slow-burning use of space recalling prime Echo And The Bunnymen. Indeed, the Bunnymen's sense of epic grandeur and scale is a feature in the Stills music, along with the Joy Division-like haunting one-chord repetition that Interpol also employ so well. Much tougher "live" than on CD, they were also genuinely surprised by the deserved ovations after each number, and after a very short-seeming set indeed, they returned for a 3-song encore with, "we got this wrong, so we're going to play all of our songs as you guys deserve more than 38 minutes!"

A final mesmeric drum machine-led number, sung by their Strokes-lookalike drummer (the only Strokes comparison I could find all night!), capped a dynamic, dramatic and very impressive set. In a year where so much new music sounds like carbon copies of yore, the Stills are using their 80's rockist influences to create something undoubtedly of their own. More power to them!

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