Live review: Yeasayer

Heaven, London, Tuesday, February 23

It’s fun, nay, fundamental for music fans and critics to consolidate how they think of bands by lumping them together, then tying them up with a bow in the form of a catch-all moniker. Most
of the time this works reasonably effectively: if I say I like ‘indie’ you can guess my tastes might span the gamut from Test Icicles to Talking Heads, but I’m probably not referring to [a]JLS[/a]. Yet sometimes this system falters and tags become redundant. Don’t be tempted to tie tonight’s dual freight-train of [a]Javelin[/a] and [a]Yeasayer[/a] to the same tracks, Brooklyn-bred wagon-buddies playing synth-psych disco. Turning the oddly fragmented natures of these two bands into something simple and recognisable would be to miss the effects that they actually cause on impact: sonic fission that opens a wormhole in the timeline of trends and confounds the boundaries of the pop pigeonholing we’re used to.

As post-ironic apostles of escapism, [a]Javelin[/a] are 30 years of material culture having snowballed forth from the ’80s heyday of synth, and combusting in your face. You can only swallow the guilt that comes with loving their deadpan discotopia – and hope the world ends before anyone finds out.
Yeasayer’s staging of ‘Odd Blood’’s foreign familiarity – the least expected and most oddly executed ‘crossover’ of the year so far – begins with the slow delivery of understated album opener ‘The Children’. Trust these awkward buggers to open with confusion. Like gameshow host and contestant, Chris Keating turns out in his Sunday best and Anand Wilder’s in a camo jumpsuit, yet neither Chris’ evangelical charm or Anand’s gospel wail form the basis of any gig you might have predicted. No need to try and understand too hard, though – they sound great, with dance-friendly new tunes such as ‘ONE’ juxtaposing in a deliciously weird way against older missives from ‘All Hour Cymbals’. Rather than too much of a good thing, it’s almost too much of lots of different good things; there’s no consistent way to respond to this onslaught of baffling brilliance.

A triumphant ‘Ambling Alp’ represents the peak of what turns out to be a learning curve – Yeasayer’s secret is that if you try to pin them down, you can’t help but let them get away.

Alex Hoban