Shearwater, Bush Hall, London
Friday 19 September 2008
Justin Vernon's Bon Iver and Jonathan Meiburg's Shearwater are two US bands spearheading what could seen as an informal Talk Talk revival this year, with Elbow, a band openly indebted to Mark Hollis's pop pioneers, doing their bit in the UK. Both acts have encored with Talk Talk songs in Shepherd's Bush of late, as though communing with the long-retired ambient-rock maverick, who retired to Wimbledon in the early Nineties after reaching the peak of his powers with the end-piece albums Spirit of Eden, Laughing Stock, and the solo Mark Hollis. Where Vernon sought to capture the parched emotional and spiritual acoustic intimacy of Mark Hollis with his justly acclaimed For Emma, Forever Ago, Meiburg's Texas outfit, Shearwater, have taken inspiration from the post-rock blueprints and occluded garage gospel of Talk Talk's final masterworks.
Both men bring plenty more to the party than Talk Talk-lite, in Meiburg's case a theatrical flamboyance and sprawling richness that recalls Desire-era Dylan, the proto-Arcade Fire psych-folk of The Waterboys and the dynamics of Astral Weeks. A wretched old ham, Meiburg cuts a fruity dash vocally and sartorially that puts one in mind of Robert Stephens in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Hollis would surely be appalled by the foppish locks, the gamey curl of the lip and the ripely overwrought lyrics about ecological disaster. More Mika Hollis than Mark Hollis.
He'd surely be repelled, too, by the band's drummer, Thor Harris, a dead ringer for the American Gladiator Deron McBee, who played the wrestler Larry David has a run-in with in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Tricked out in orange sweat pants, a polka-dot vest, a white angora jerkin and with an inexcusable mullet, he looks more like a Slovakian session bassist for Scorpions than the sticks man for a Mojo-feted "pastoral prog-rock" band.
Invigorated by a recent stint supporting Coldplay across the enormodomes of the West Coast, the five-piece share with, say, Sufjan Stevens, a sense of on-stage play that makes up for their geeky awkwardness on stage. Bows are scraped on a cymbal and xylophone, and banjo, mariachi trumpet, clarinet, vibraphone, double bass and even some kind of home-made psaltery are thrown into the mix. Songs from the band's fifth album, Rook, and the earlier Palo Santo are dilated into baroque tapestries with dissonant, serrated riffs and quivering feedback.
Following the huge success of Arcade Fire's situationist antics, every alt US act worth its salt is now legally obliged to "play the room" unamplified at some point, and so after an over-egged and pretty pointless cover of Spirit of Eden's "The Rainbow", the band spirited themselves to a piano in the corner of the ballroom for a final unplugged sign-off. What Hollis would have made of it all is anyone's guess, but it was a fitting close for a band who treat his perfectionist legacy with a refreshing dollop of panto.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The way the police have treated Cliff Richard is completely unacceptable
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
- 4 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 5 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head