Monday, November 12, 2018

Flasher fall flat


An absolute dead ringer for Buzz's esteemed editor Fedor, Zac White is a busy man - as are his three accomplices. Collectively, they're making a name for themselves as Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, and they played this very room only a fortnight ago as tour support to Our Girl. This evening, however, it's White rather than fellow guitarist Tom Rees who is centre stage; musically there's a difference too, with White's solo material tending towards mellow, messy-haired slacker garage, albeit punctuated by moments of power pop. If Ty Segall ever took a breather between recordings and came to Cardiff on holiday, you could be fairly sure he'd be an instant fan.

While White and company can't stick around (he explains that they've been offered guestlist places at another venue), Private World look as though they too would rather be somewhere else. The quartet - half of whom are dressed like solemn Joy Division acolytes and half of whom appear to have just stepped off the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour bus - don't seem to have much genuine belief in what they're doing. Which is a shame, because what they're doing - a kind of subtly entrancing post-punk - has both novelty and potential. Just as your eyes gradually acclimatise to the dark, so too do your ears gradually make sense of their coolly detached songs.

Flasher's take on post-punk is markedly different: sparky, sloganeering, hook-heavy. The Washington DC trio, featuring former Priests bassist Taylor Mulitz on guitar, might be signed to Domino but their affinity with hometown label Dischord is clear. Debut LP Constant Image sounds as though they've osmotically absorbed Fugazi's influence by virtue of renting out the studio space used by Brendan Canty - evident most notably in the personal-is-political lyrics taking aim at late-stage capitalism, and especially bassist Daniel Saperstein's Guy Picciotto yelp.

Tonight, though, they fall some way short of impressing. True, Saperstein and drummer Emma Baker form a tight rhythm section, and the former - hunched, twitchy, frequently stood on one leg like a stork - is a far more visually arresting bassist than most. True, 'Erase Myself' hits an unlikely sweet spot somewhere between Wire and shoegaze.

But best track 'Skim Milk' is tossed away carelessly first and too often the songs' intricacies and those all-important lyrics are obliterated in the mix. The video for 'Material' is a clever commentary on the YouTube/Spotify generation's short attention span and desire for instant gratification, so it's a sad irony that I find my mind wandering to thoughts of Damo Suzuki's gig across the street.

Constant Image appears to be that rarest of things: a punk album best appreciated at home rather than in a club.

(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)

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