Real Estate at the Roundhouse, London, gig review: Comfortable in their own skin

There is precious little in the way of charisma, but their songs need no embellishment

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The Independent Culture

You do wonder what it would take to knock Real Estate out of their stride. For nearly a decade the New Jersey indie heroes have steadfastly cruised along a blissful, sun-kissed terrain, jingle-jangling their way, impervious to musical trends and notions of cool. 

It seems not even fatherhood, side projects and a departed founding member can alter their course. Real Estate simply do what they do.

About as likely to change direction as a waterfall, fourth album In Mind makes light of what for other bands might have brought about an artistic volte-face, rejecting quantum leaps in favour of restrained evolutions. As ever, the results are reliably delightful.   

That tonight shows a band comfortable in their own skin is something of a relief. Guitarist Matt Mondanile’s somewhat rancorous departure to work full-time on his Ducktails project could have left Real Estate bereft: instead singer-guitarist Martin Courtney’s revamped band (including replacement Julian Lynch) flourish with all the same signposts in tact – the guitar licks of REM’s Peter Buck, the sound of The Byrds and Teenage Fanclub-like harmonies.

There is precious little in the way of charisma – the five members are motionless with their instruments – but songs as heartwarming as “Crime” from 2014’s Atlas, or “Green Aisles” (2011’s Days) need no embellishment. 

If there is the occasional sense that Real Estate’s dial remains permanently set to autopilot – the leisurely nature of much of the songs makes for a continually pleasant rather than engrossing trip – then there are still moments of understated experimentation in the way “Serve the Song” subtly shifts a gear midway through; or the manner in which “Two Arrows” develops into a huge psych-jam outro that takes more than a cue from The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. 

But as the uplifting “oh oh oooh” chorus of “It’s Real” and the unalloyed joy of “Talking Backwards” show, Real Estate need not worry too much about broadening their horizons when they boast such fantastic songs. Why do several things well when you can do one with such finesse?