Sine of the times
WAVVES / FROM LIGHT TO SOUND, 18TH NOVEMBER 2009, OXFORD JERICHO TAVERN
Having failed in my quest to see From Light To Sound once before, back at the tail end of August, tonight proves to be second time lucky - I've actually read the bill correctly...
I could legitimately describe From Light To Sound as a "supergroup" if you'd actually heard of all (or even any) of the various members' other projects. So, just a plain group, then. It's also potentially misleading to describe them as a mellowed Mogwai who've cribbed notes on Holy Fuck's more blissed-out moments (you know - 'Lovely Allen') because, although that's certainly what tracks like opener 'Heart And Electricity' hint hopefully at, there are a few missteps along the way, the songs often tend to sag slightly (sometimes seeming almost to lose interest in themselves) and I get the impression that too many guitarists are spoiling the broth.
But their set is a far from disagreeable first half of the evening's entertainment, and it's hard to dislike a band who declare that one of their instrumentals is about "an imaginary civil war between Swansea and Cardiff". To use a characteristically South Walian expression in its more widely understood sense, tidy.
It's also second time lucky with the headliners. Due to play this very venue in June, Wavves pulled the plug on their entire tour following the very public plug-pulling that took place at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona in May and Nathan Williams' subsequent grovelling apology for being drugged out of his mind, so it's a relief just to see him take to the Jericho Tavern stage.
Not that they haven't continued to be plagued by disaster and misfortune - Zach Hill of Hella and countless other projects was due to be behind the kit (something of which promoters You! Me Dancing! had understandably made much on the bill posters), only for him to break his wrist just days before the tour kicked off. Williams, in his characteristically bratty/"whatevs" way, rubs his eyes theatrically in a boo-hoo gesture. The show must go on - and it does, for all of about 25 minutes.
I think I've mentioned on here before (and if I haven't, I certainly should have) my conviction of there being a musical lineage spanning decades and generations that began in earnest with the Beach Boys in the 60s and then passed through the Ramones in the 70s and the Jesus & Mary Chain in the 80s - a lineage which has seen sweet pop harmonies gradually submerged deeper and deeper beneath fuzz. And Wavves - essentially No Age if they'd listened to less My Bloody Valentine and more Nirvana and 50s/60s girl groups - are arguably the tradition's current torch-holders (though "deep" isn't an appropriate adjective). All of which is to say that, unlike From Light To Sound, they're very definitely not tidy. On the contrary, they're as loose as hell, and either instantly likeable or instantly detestable depending on your preferences.
Wavves were born as Williams' bedroom project - something to pass the five-minute intervals between spliffs, is my guess - and that's exactly where slacker surf-punk anthems like 'So Bored' and 'No Hope Kids' transport you: an oddly odoured enclave where you might have to step gingerly around crusty socks on the floor, but also a place of joyous youthful abandon, a refuge from adulthood.
As they kick off their single-song encore - it's the only one the current bassist and drummer know that they haven't already played - and the youngsters in front of me gleefully grab one last opportunity to throw themselves around, I wonder briefly whether this is a guilty pleasure, and how undignified it might seem for a 32-year-old like me to still get high on the smell of teen spirit. But then I realise I really don't care.