The Sea and Cake - The Scala - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

The Sea and Cake - The Scala

by Julian Paszkiewicz Rating: Release Date:

Despite spending most of their time of time playing in empty rooms at practice, most people in bands will tell you that some of the toughest gigs aren't necessarily the ones in front of heaving crowds with high expectations. Nope, they're the ones which involve hitting big city stages in front of next to no one. You would assume they would be at least prepared for this eventuality, but the reality of the situation can sometimes feel like making a cruel choice. A choice between burning out or fading away.

This is precisely the quandary Gentlemen find themselves in tonight. While there is nothing singularly objectionable about them, there's nothing particularly remarkable about them either. Sporting flailing hair, low BMIs and leather jackets, their songs are stuffed to bursting with helicopter tremolo, thudding rhythms, high-pitched wails and the odd 70s hook.

While one of their choruses nods to TV on the Radio, it's no where near as clever. Another emanates a whiff of Modest Mouse, but without any of their sheer sparkle. In short, they look like a band who are perennially booked for the 3pm slot at festivals and, essentially, sound like one.

The sort of band you catch half a song of while watching clips of Reading on TV before flipping over to different channel completely. Generating little more than a passing interest amongst an audience passing in and out of the bar, Gentlemen quietly leave the stage at their end of their set with a token wave. Unsure they seem, as to who they've actually been playing to.

Thankfully, the same cannot be said of Chicago stalwarts The Sea and Cake. Considering their name was lifted from the title of a Gastr del Sol song and their drummer also plays in post-rock pioneers Tortoise, the first thing that strikes you about them live is how refreshingly immediate they are. If they were a drink, they would be a gin and slimline tonic.

Throughout their set, the guitar interplay of Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt shows off their talents less as conventional musicians and more as carpenters and joiners of sounds. Aided and abetted by the rhythm section of Eric Claridge and John McIntyre, individual segments of songs such as 'On and On' hang from each other beautifully, like a lovingly-crafted dovetail joint. The Sea and Cake's appeal has always been one of solid construction over fashionable trims. So its reassuring tonight that they can pull this off just as effortlessly on slower numbers like the title track of their latest album, Runner.

Dipping into The Sea and Cake is invariably a friendly comfort-listen. Their best songs have always respected the grain and texture of their instruments, yet sustain a uniquely tangible and tactile quality throughout. Aside from receiving the biggest applause, tonight's flawless performance of 'Window Sills', from 2008's Car Alarm, single-handedly proves that if you keep playing in empty rooms long enough, something good will eventually come out of it.

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