BBC: Live Review, Beach House [Extended Edition]
March 10, 2010, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Live Reviews | Tags: , ,

Beach House, The Speakeasy, February 14th

The midnight dance of young bohemia plays out in the confines of the speakeasy tonight. Lit in valentine-red, their wrists are marked with a pink entry-stamp smudge that looks like a kiss. So far, so Beach House. Out-numbering 2-to-1 the plebs like me, who class a nicely laundered Bench t-shirt as cutting edge fashion,  they’re the type of beret-wearing contrarians who write free-association poetry compositions in the afternoon and have stylised indie sex to warped Shang-ri-la’s vinyls. Propped up by self-consciously unkempt facial hair, there’s enough ironic eyewear on the floor to fill out a Buddy Holly convention. Straight out of a Larry Clarke showcase, these glamorously sullen gamines and laterally the male of the species – that dishevelled part time painter with rent-boy good looks and cheek bones that could vivisection a tin of baked beans – are a better source of interest than support act Lawrence Arabia.

The bland but good-natured Aussies win a quaintly warm reception, but the band is far easier to love than their music, which is a quirky composite of 4-part harmonies, rockin’ American classicism, some ethnic elements and a tasty bit of trumpet. They play like they have nothing to prove and with a brotherly kinship. Its an amenable set but ultimately they’re just frivolous diversion  next to the theatre of high-romance conjured by Beach House’s timeless, impossibly majestic love songs..

The daughter of  Parisian Soprana Christiane Legrand, irrefutably Victoria Legrand has the greatest voice in indie today. The timbre, the tone, the mellifluous control, the exquisitely bended vowels, its so powerful and true that it sounds synthetic, like the most beautiful police siren you ever heard. You can do nothing but close your eyes and try your best to keep it together. Its easier to paraphrase the girl who retreated from the front in tears twenty minutes in, telling her boyfriend “Its too much, I can‘t deal with it. I’m shaking”. If you reckon that’s a bit wet, then why not drop in next time? You’ll be that incoherent crazy, rambling about sunsets and the fragility of life to a disinterested doorman.

If Grizzly Bear left their hearts in Vekatimest (a little island thingy where they wrote the eponymous album), then Beach House are writing their tear-smudged diary entries from a place of perpetual youth, where in rainy summer-towns, literate kids like Beach House feel too many things all at the same time. A hyper-emotive carousal of wonder, the live set charms to an almost indecent degree. ‘Good Times’ is your Mum and Dad falling in love on a moonlit bandstand in Maine, and ‘Take Care’ a peaceful committment to there. ‘Gila’ boasts a keening guitar line that keeps it firmly heaven bound and ‘Lover Of Mine’ – their “Michael Jackson song” – is a crisp respite from the smeared wooziness that defines their third album. But their creased folk rock is never more divine than in ‘Zebra’ which provokes a chorus of gasps from the captivated audience.

Suffice to say they’re an uncommonly attractive trio (even their drummer looks like a GQ model) and Legrand runs the show from her organ on centre-stage. She’s a powerful presence, rather than the type to feign a beatific Laura Marling-esque facade (give us a break Laura, we’ve read Noah And The Whale’s sleeve notes – everyone knows you don’t take any sh*t). They intermittently address the crowd with dreamy non-sequitars and nuggets of cryptic advice that couldn’t be anymore typical of the wistful nature of the act than if they wrote them down in blood on a manila envelope and delivered the package by horseback. Things like “I hope you find love, even if you don’t ever tell anybody about it” and “we wish you good life, good love and good law”, and their greatest stab at self-parody – “thank you for being our first.”. It seems a lot less giggle-some, though, after they roll out closing gambit ‘10 Mile Stereo’, which offers tender Gainbergian love through the comforting heat of bottomless reverb. All is dream, as they say. “Happy Valentine’s Day” says Victoria. John Calvert

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