The Wave Pictures
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February 19. At The Enterprise in north London, the sound is dire. No one seems to know how to turn down the reverb that’s making The Wave Pictures’ singer David Tattersall sound like a J Spaceman tribute act. A friends-and-family crowd claps quietly, seated at low tables decorated with tasteful clusters of tea lights. As David notes, it’s all a bit ‘jazz’, but the three-piece give it their best. Over an hour-plus, their ridiculously catchy melodies, smart turns of phrase and old-school vocal harmonies manage to excite a crowd that nice-but-glum opening act Mathew Sawyer had left hovering between maudlin self-pity and flat-out despair. The set feels about four songs too long but the band never run out of tight, focused energy; David’s voice is tremulously strong and captivating until the last note. Overall, though, it’s less satisfying than promising: a suggestion of a phenomenon whose day has yet to come.
March 11. A queue snakes down The Enterprise’s tiny staircase, while upstairs it’s standing room only. The room’s a-buzz with boastful tales of attendance at The Wave Pictures’ three previous Tuesday nights – tonight’s the conclusion of a four-week residency and word has clearly spread.
Esiotrot, endearingly shambolic, open. Some are on guitars and bass, there are a few horns, a drummer; they fill the stage with bodies and the room with soft, pervasive melodic lines that twine round listeners and bind them into a reverie. They’re loose and ramshackle, though charming. Matthew’s voice, already fragile on the album, treads the finest of lines between sweetly crackling and cracking up. The horns – part rhythm bass, part Chuck Mangione – are a constant sonic presence, alternately burbling and blurting in the background. A dank, sub-Camden corner of London feels almost summery. The scene is set.
When The Wave Pictures stroll on and kick into ‘Just Like a Drummer’, it’s as triumphant as Rocky taking the top of the museum steps and only slightly more subdued. They’re tight and focused, but grinning like kids at a birthday party with pure, infectious joy. Like pretty much all their songs, ‘…Drummer’ suggests David’s been holed up for months in a garret, metring and parsing each line, consulting a tattered OED to imbue each fraught syllable with the most precise shades of meaning. But it’s delivered with the earnest yet light-hearted near-loucheness of any of his eminent inspirations (Reed, Richman, Gano).
After the folky warmth of ‘I Remembered’ and ‘Now You Are Pregnant’, each as instantly classic as a long-lost ’60s gem, the acoustic guitar is swapped for an electric and they rip into ‘Leave the Scene Behind’. Dan Mayfield pops up on violin, alternately rollicking and sorrowful, and they power through another hour of songs new and old, pulsing with energy. It’s as though the lost-sounding boy who winsomely admitted, “I know how it feels to kiss into the dreams of a girl” has only just realised what happens when she gets him “behind closed doors”. They’re mobbed by cute indie girls afterwards, which bodes very well indeed for more gorgeous tales of romance and heartbreak.
Photo:* Andrew Bulhak*
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