quirky, irreverent indie pop won them scores of fans in the mid to late noughties, myself included. Now, in the difficult tween years of the decade, they have eschewed some of their signature quirkiness for synth-laden, polished pop with a definite whiff of the 80s, but still retain their sense of experimentation.
Last night’s double bill at Stall 6 with fellow label mates Cut Copy was proof positive that they can still work a crowd with their bright, infectious tunes and off-beat sychronised dancing (see ‘Alibi’). Kellie Sutherland and Cameron Bird had the on-stage moves, ably supported by Gus Franklin’s kung fu and Jamie Mildren’s deadpan Nimbin dancing. There were a few hands-in-the-air/mexican wave moments which would have seen a room full of communal exuberance if the crowd hadn’t been so dazed by the scorching heat of the day and the stifling atmosphere inside the venue.
One of my faves, the sparky ‘Do The Whirlwind’ gets an outing but never really takes off into the flight of fancy it could have been, and their cover of Londonbeat’s 80s classic ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You‘ is a crowd pleaser, but could have used a good sharp dose of irony to lift it from its nostalgia-laden depths. Love Kellie’s vogueing, though, see if you can catch it here:
Irresistibly danceable, new track ‘Escapee’ (dedicated to Roger Federer) is a highlight, as is 2007`s ‘Heart It Races’, and finally, the first single from the latest album Moment Bends, ‘Contact High’. The audience is definitely appreciative, sweatily bouncing around with hands in the air. But I can’t help thinking that in moving to this smoother, more polished sound they have done away with some of what made them special. Or perhaps it’s just my particular aversion to synths. As a child of the 80s I find it hard to see the irony in revisiting all those synths and 80s sounds. It’s still daggy; not enough time has passed to make it new and interesting. I can’t relate it to anything cutting edge or modern, nu new wave or whatever. It’s all Jean Michel Jarre and shoulder pads to me. Perhaps that says more about me than about Architecture in Helsinki, though. I was never an early adopter of trends, couldn’t see them til they hit me in the face. Ouch, I think that would be said trend slapping me upside the head…
After Architecture in Helsinki, it was time for Cut Copy. Oh dear. What can I say? I admit I have only a passing acquaintance with their back catalogue, so at first I honestly thought I had mistaken them for another band, and that some other band who I had assumed was Cut Copy were on stage. I was confused. Because what was happening on stage surely couldn’t be the band that so many people had raved and buzzed about. Lead singer Dan Whitford’s thin, falsetto voice sounded completely unlike what I expected, almost off-key, and the cliched choruses grated on my ears. Was it the mix? I don’t know. I could only stand it for four songs, then I left. A pity, because on record their mix of dance rock/synth pop sounds good, and I was excited to see them. I don’t like giving bad reviews, but last night’s set rates up there with Wilco`s 2009 gig at Volkshaus as one of my all time worst gigs. Let’s hope last night’s gig was just a one-off, or perhaps even just a figment of my fevered imagination. Anything but actual reality.
Architecture in Helsinki setlist (thanks, Nic!): Desert Island/Hold Music/Everything’s Blue/Go/Denial Style/Beep/Wishbone/Escapee/I’ve Been Thinking About You (Londonbeat cover)/Deep Down/Do The Whirlwind/Heart It Races/ B4 3D/Contact High