Tuesday, 18 October 2011
830 CHAPEL CLUB, Clock Opera, Oxford O2 Academy 2, Monday 17 October 2011
So, a blustery solo run along to Oxford and a lengthy circumnavigation of the city centre, due to an annoying abundance of buses, nevertheless still saw me parking up and hitting the venue just after 8. A very poorly attended one early doors, this, with the venue back room closed off as well! I took a watching brief stage right for support Clock Opera, on at 8.30. From the outset their sound wasn’t sorted, coming across shrill, harsh and abrasive, and their cluttered and pounding 80’s synth pop was hard on the ears and really didn’t help their cause. Not sure why so many bands want to channel this stuff – it really wasn’t that great first time around! Their closing 2 numbers however were much better, more purposeful crescendo-filled affairs, throwing the rest of their output into sharp relief. Write some more like these two, please, boys…
The place filled up a little more but was comfortably attended, no more. Also, I was surprised by the proliferation of older, grey haired chaps at this one – yeah, yeah, I’m a fine one to talk, I know! A very fiddly soundcheck finally saw Chapel Club take the stage at 9.40, by which time I’d wandered down the front and was on the barriers, stage centre, in front of a very blasé, standoffish crowd! Nevertheless, the band took to their task with gusto, opening with an unfamiliar, synth-blanketed new number then informing us that the format of their performance would be a split-set affair; a clutch of newies for starters, then the more familiar material from current, debut album “Palace” to conclude. Said newies were predominantly keyboard-driven, gloomy affairs, shrouded and mysteriously morose, with electronic drumbeats giving them a feel more akin to Talk Talk than to their album stuff, and featuring suitably doomy vocals from singer Lewis Bowman, who with his more severe crew-cut looked slightly out of place amidst his floppy fringed bandmates.
Half a dozen unfamiliar numbers in, Lewis announced, “this is the second set,” by way of intro to LP opener “Surfacing”, the band’s trademark growling bass underpinning this moody vignette of dark brooding bedsit melancholy, featuring a chorus steal from the old standard “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”. The set predictably picked up considerably thereafter, as the drummer took to a conventional kit, and the band concentrated on their more familiar guitar-driven material. “Five Trees” was a dynamic turbocharged highlight, “O Maybe I” all seething angst and menace, and set closer “Shore” a pulsating crescendo of guitar noise, to close out an oddly shaped but ultimately worthwhile hour long set. Shame there weren’t more to see it, but Lewis thanked those of us that had bothered, “for coming out to see us on a Monday night… it is Monday, right?”
Grabbed the set-list afterwards – also a two parter! – and had a quick chat with the helpful roadie before tiredness took over and I headed home, after a good one from this promising young band unafraid to take chances with their sound. More power to them!