The Antlers, Heaven, London
Thursday 19 May 2011
The last time The Antlers toured the UK they played a London church, an Oxford pub and a former mausoleum in Brighton. Those venues were the perfect complement to the band's intimate breakthrough, Hospice, the metaphorical tale of a relationship destroyed by bone cancer.
This time, they're in a London nightclub where the crowd have to be booted out by 11pm, in order to let the denizens of club night G-A-Y Porn Idol on to the dancefloor. Which is a nice, though not completely fair, segue into the fact that the Antlers' second LP proper is a more expansive effort than previous work. It's not Bono jumping off a platform, but tracks like opener "I Don't Want Love" at least fill up the room in a way that earlier ones like "Atrophy" and "Bear" can sometimes suck the air from it. That said, Burst Apart – the new album – still manages to have a song called "Putting the Dog to Sleep" on it. It's not all Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.
The Antlers were originally the solo project of Peter Silberman, sometime graphic designer and son of the wealthy upstate New York suburbia of John Cheever and Richard Yates. When Hospice was released, Silberman invited session players Darby Cicci and Michael Lerner to join the band and the three put live meat on the bones of Silberman's intensely personal compositions. After two years of touring their music has been significantly beefed up – each of the night's 10 tracks are beaten into shape like a cheap flank steak. This effect is then tempered by Silberman's toolkit of existential falsetto howls – Ginsberg meets Minnie Ripperton.
The highlight comes with "Two", a song that should be The Antlers' "Yellow" or "With or without You". It's about a young girl dying and, live, the band have transformed it into an unholy, near-joyful, hymn, with a new intro and a sped-up ending. It may not be totally to the track's benefit, but ought to help it to not mirror its protagonist's fate when it heads for the great outdoors of the festival season.
The Antlers are a wonderful band, intense, loud when they need to be, and they've managed to master the art of taking the most intimate of emotions stories and banging them into wild sonic life. And they do it with a panache that Silberman's upstate NY literary predecessors would be proud of.
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