Deerhunter - The Cockpit, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Deerhunter - The Cockpit, Leeds

by Pete Sykes Rating: Release Date:

Crikey, Deerhunter fans are miserable sods. As Soundblab wanders into the less-than-salubrious surroundings of Leeds' Cockpit, the only things visible through the gloom are a stage empty but for some amps and a packet of chocolate digestives, and several scowling men, each standing alone at the sides of the room. Deerhunter are one of those bands who attract a certain sort of fan - let's call them 'serious music fans' - who turn up to the gig as the doors open and loiter, stony-faced, arms folded, foot occasionally tapping, waiting for their favourite b-side or rarity. Perhaps this is because Deerhunter's music is so rich, intense and complex, and Bradford Cox's lyrics so existential and figurative. And yet, those of us who've seen the band play before know to expect not po-faced musicianship, but a palpable sense of joy, wonder and even some fun.

Deerhunter are touring with San Franciscan indie-popsters The Fresh and Onlys, but first there is what we may charitably style 'the local support' to endure. Wooderson are from Sheffield and appear to have stepped out of a time machine that has whisked them to the present day from the late 1990s, where they were happily supping Carling and reading Loaded. Their music is an unappealing stew of emo, grunge and hardcore, with indecipherable lyrics, unusual time signatures, and lots of energy spent pulling rock-star shapes and wanking their guitars. Soundblab's companion suggests they ditch their bland moniker in favour of the far more accurate and descriptive 'Willy Fight', and it's difficult to disagree. They are extremely unfashionable - which I kind of like - but sadly not very good. Bizarrely, they have a song about former Charlton and Sheffield United striker Clive Mendonca, and we all know that only Half Man Half Biscuit can write songs about football ('All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit') and get away with it.

The Fresh And Onlys are a rather ragtag-looking bunch (apologies for my rather shallow obsession with how everyone looks), lead singer Tim Cohen sporting an impressive beard and bearing a passing similarity to a pre-weight loss Peter Jackson, while wonderfully-named guitarist Shayde Sartin resembles a pocket-sized Nick Cave. Their jangly, melodic indie-rock is immediately engaging, if rather old-fashioned. One lovely cut after another is played, 'Peacock & Wing' and 'Dude's Got a Tender Heart' delighting in particular. But after forty minutes they have largely outstayed their welcome, and the music, for all its charm, is not hugely memorable, or noticeably different to about fifty other bands Soundblab has seen.

So, now that Soundblab has been rude about the fans and rude about the support, what of the main attraction? They take to the stage in silence, not acknowledging the cheers and whoops from the crowd, and immediately launch into a blistering 'Cryptograms', the Krautrock-y masterpiece from their album of the same name. It's storming stuff, and even those serious fans are now surely dancing their skinny arses off. They play 'Adorno', a rare cut from their first LP (the magnificently named Turn It Up, Faggot), and the best stuff from their most recent record, 2008's magnificent Microcastle, 'Never Stops' acquiring a new level of ferocity on its chorus and 'Cover Me (Slowly)' sounding deliciously spaced out.

They have a strange stage presence - guitarist Lockett Pundt and drummer Moses Archuleta scarcely look up throughout the gig, while bassist Josh Fauver is smiley and chatty (even, adorably, acknowledging the audience's applause by bowing after each tune) and Cox banters good-naturedly with the crowd every couple of songs. It's all most charming, but what really convinces about tonight is the music, which reaches its height with a mind-blowing eight-minute version of 'Nothing Ever Happened'. Remarkably, it manages to sound totally controlled while simulatneously exploding with abandon. Complex and deep while never losing a sense of fun, Deerhunter are a terrific band who, on this evidence, are approaching the peak of their powers.

Pete Sykes

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