Amazing Baby, Chairlift, Apache Beat
Four of 2009’s most exciting American acts rock our little NYC shindig. Oh, and our man Dev...Club NME @ CMJ, The Annex, New York (October 21)
They say your life can change in a New York minute, what about a Brooklyn beat? So much has been said (by us) about the spectacular generation of bands rising from these sidewalks that it’s hard not to see CMJ as a pilgrimage. Surely the art-school hippies, the bongo punks, the louche disco princes and the apocalyptic-ice-cream-vending-digital-punks are going to change our lives! From now on we’ll be finger-painting in Williamsburg with Dave Sitek ’til lunch, then hopping on Scarlett Johansson’s merry prankster bus and selling homemade ponchos to pay for our DIY psychedelic spoken word album ’til dinner at Ezra Koenig’s uptown palace. Goodbye old England, kiss Morrissey farewell for us, NME is off to the new world! Oh, hello Dev. Typical isn’t it? You fly out to New York and you bump into old friends. Tonight at Club NME’s CMJ show Dev Hynes is helping out his cross-Atlantic bezzies Apache Beat. While the Englishman takes lead on guitar, Apache’s Ili is booming through their eight-song set. Her lungs are like a blunderbuss blowing lead into the front row, but they’re contained within an elegant frame jerking its way across the stage. On record they may have krautrock pretensions, but the Germanics have clearly been left at the studio because, like the Pretenders playing post-Green Day grunge, this is pure hair-raising adrenaline pop.
Less overtly ambitious at making girls wiggle, Violens may have been plagued by sound problems, but their ’60s pop harmonies wrung through speakers from hell is still enough to paint the crowd scared NME readers may have known about Chairlift for months but, out here, they’re best known for soundtracking an advert for what we used to call a Walkman. Opening with the iconic ‘Planet Health’, Caroline’s voice instantly rises above the gloom of this dive bar, a wailing and epic cumulonimbus, only to be demolished by her surprising bursts into titanic roars. Live, it seems, Chairlift have sharper teeth than anyone could have imagined. If anyone thought ‘Bruises’ signalled that they were going to be another twee Apple house band, then they’re having to reappraise quickly. As magical sounds burn from her throat, Caroline’s hands pound and prance across her keys while Aaron’s guitar is equally intent on outraging preconceptions. Far from the astral visions of the album, his strings are growling, spiting beasts.
Amazing Baby are sitting on top of the pile tonight. They were one of the first bands to embrace the spectral acid ethos now flowing through Brooklyn’s veins. They may have been reduced in number since their conception as a rolling cult of millions of nude hipsters, but their sound has not suffered. Like Chairlift, theirs is a tauter, more muscular rock than their MySpace fans could have predicted; they’ve brought their own sound man tonight and it seems his job is to turn it up. ‘Head Dress’ boils the ceiling while a guitarist of Slash proportions solos into galactic eternity. There’s not a psychamerican in sight tonight – this is a rock band. Yes, New York’s full of suprises. New York’s fucking great. In fact, New York’s so bloody good its enough to make you hope Obama loses, just to see the look on their talented faces.