FanfarloEdit this event
- 229, Pemberton »
229 on Great Portland Street? Sounds rubbish. It's not though, it's nice! Maybe see you there later? OK? OK. (Sorry, I've just never been there before and I thought it was lovely.)
Fanfarlo are pretty close to perfection at the moment. Momentum has flung them all together, coalescing around leader Simon Aurell's rather unique perspectives and gifts for utterly righteous, purely loveable popular music. I saw them about 18 months ago as a three piece with a drum machine. Even then they were magic. Now, there's about 20 of them (six), and they're all perfect. Friendly, fierce, wayward, timid, subtle, versatile, other things… From the moment their first song prickles the room, their charm is offensively powerful.
'…Outsiders' is like… SO anthemic and stuff, while 'We Live By The Lake' is brutally beautiful, its climbing and falling thirds sealed to the bobbing disco-lite rhythms like two boxers punching each other at the same time. What is most clear about Fanfarlo, though, is the world that Aurell has built around himself and the uniting, intangible purpose that each song has - they crush every ounce of effort and emotion through the narrowest of pop margins so that its power spurts out in a colourful explosion at every climax. Even though there are feedback issues, Fanfarlo can count themselves as the most powerful performers of the night, and possibly any night supporting anyone. Great things are coming, we all sincerely hope.
Tunng, on the other hand, are lacklustre. This will probably seem like a silly slap in the face of progression, but too much has changed for the worse in this formerly special group. This will seem even sillier, but it really is a shame to see the majority of Tunng now standing up to play live. Sillier-sounding still, they now look fashionable, not like tramps. This is all obviously completely superficial, but it is bothering and surprising to see so much aesthetic change in a group over a short spell of time. The recording of their third album, Good Arrows, and the expanded press interest in the group has possibly had an effect…
Where their sound used to brood and interact, it now blusters and over-simplifies. It's all very well to indulge in a wizard-like control of electronic augmentations, but it's vitally important that the underlying, more traditional backdrops are the match of it. Too often this evening we hear an average folk strum covered by a blanket of Warp records kitsch-sampling. Slightly stranger than that is the exploratory metal (yep) instrumental 'Soup', which features a protracted slowcore Hetfield-esque guitar solo. It's quite clever and funny, but also a little unnerving and confusing.
They can still charm beautifully, though, and they do so on 'Hands'. Sam Genders' warm voice becomes the focus (reluctantly?) for a few moments, but one feels it should be more. 'Hands' seems like a pet project of his that hearkens back to tunes from their second LP like the unbeatable 'Woodcat' (criminally omitted tonight, along with several other crowd-pleasers), and something that would be worthwhile to pursue. Their menace, once a powerful tool, has become somewhat trivial thanks to an over-reliance on blips and whirrs (more clarinet is always a bonus too), and their songs now are a slight trial to endure. Much effort has clearly gone into the newer material with some excellent results, but they've lost the effortlessness, the mystique of obscured, scratchy genius that they used to flaunt. Seated.
The people, however, seem to enjoy themselves very much indeed, and this is a gig review rather than a career deconstruction. With that in mind, it's easy to see the charm and ability to captivate that Tunng exercise. They've an unrivalled position in the indie community – no one is combining oppositional crafts like they are with this much consistent success – but they have only to stretch themselves, to take a risk, to experiment to yield those greater results. Tonight, they still-adequately fail to do so.
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