Junip, XOYO, London
Standing in a new venue which was nearly closed down on its opening night, in a city brought to a standstill by a tube strike, watching a band who were shelved for five years thanks to their singer's breakout solo career, a series of highly improbable occurrences have coincided to throw together east London's huddled masses for tonight's show. Long odds and great performances often go hand-in-hand, though, and José González's band of synth-rockers are determined not to disappoint.
An advertiser-friendly cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats" propelled Junip frontman González into the limelight; he's taken his own electronic approach for his return to the band he formed before emerging solo in 2005, with brooding synths and a new percussive urgency lending the band's sometimes meandering ruminations on love and loss a more vital edge. The psychedelic undertones of "Without You" bring to mind ELO and Traffic, and fuzzy guitars and loose, swooping keyboard lines add to the building neuroticism. "Rope and Summit", the backbone of an EP released earlier this year, performs a similar function; it's a tight and scuzzy opening track in tonight's set.
While Junip's recently released debut album, Fields, has drawn a generally positive reaction, there are charges that the irreverence which marked out González's debut have made it hard for the Argentinian-born Swede to progress. At its worst, Junip's softer output isn't just familiar to fans of their lead singer's solo career; it borrows from acoustic acts like Kings of Convenience and many others. But live the band are eclectic – playing up the unusual parts of their sound and burying its least impressive elements. Certainly, the droning bassline of "Sweet and Bitter" and the distortion applied to Gonzalez's vocals throughout transform what is a slightly samey LP into a more exciting live experience. For this alone, they're worth watching – especially against these odds.
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