SNOWPONY ASTORIA, LONDON
MEDAL CAMDEN BARFLY, LONDON
WHISTLER LOOKED petrified. Rightly so, since their brittle acoustic sound was being aired in a venue generally frequented by rabid heavy metal and guitar-based indie bands. As they took their seats ("Seats?" cried the man next to me. "Where do they think they are? The Albert Hall?"), singer Kerry Shaw eyed the audience like an anxious owl. But as her vocals took hold, the laddish chatter at the bar abated. With their hazy harmonicas, dreamy acoustic guitars and even the occasional mandolin, Whistler seemed gloriously old-fashioned and must be commended for resisting the temptations of the turntable. But best of all were Shaw's bittersweet lyrics that reserved the right to be miserable and entreated long-lost lovers "Don't jump in front of my train".
Still, Whistler seemed overjoyed to be alive next to Snowpony. With former members of Stereolab, Echobelly and My Bloody Valentine, they have an impressive pedigree and their debut album The Slow-Motion World of Snowpony has been rapturously received in indie circles. But "slow-motion" understates Snowpony's world: lacklustre and laboured would be more fitting. Vocalist Katherine Gifford might have been dragged out of bed for the show while her listless vocals made her sound like she was halfway through a yawn. Some respite was offered in instrumental moments that mixed brazenly upbeat percussive sounds with sinister guitars. Keyboardist Debs Smith also provided mercurial relief as she rocked maniacally on her heels and punched the keys with a clenched fist.
The Oxford five-piece Medal came equipped with a singer with all the correct credentials: a bone structure to rival The Verve's Richard Ashcroft, heavy eyelids and an impossibly skinny frame that made you want to help bear the weight of his guitar. With their delicate melodies and plaintive demeanour, Medal have clearly taken lessons from their local forebears Radiohead, though their pastoral atmospherics echo Pink Floyd. The singer's fragile vocals were sustained by warm organ sounds which were systematically shattered by swirling, psychedelic guitars. While they put on a largely compelling show, they possessed neither the intellectual prowess or the searing intensity of Radiohead, and you couldn't help thinking that Medal have missed the miserablist boat.Reuse content