Live, @ Piano’s, Manhattan
September 28, 2011
Early in last night’s Veronica Falls show Roxanne Clifford apologized, from behind a wall of hair hiding her face, that she had a touch of flu and couldn’t hit the super high notes. “Some of us are ill, and some of us can’t sing,” added drummer Patrick Doyle.
Not that these shortcomings were stopping anyone—most every song featured wobbly near-harmonies from Clifford, Doyle, and gangly guitarist James Hoare. If the focus couldn’t entirely be on the sweetness of Clifford’s cloudy-day melodies, it’d have to be on the overshadowed aggression that often rumbles below the London band’s songs. Though they’ve got a lot of twee C86 signifiers, songs about romantic disappointment by the boatload, they rock out pretty hard. Not a jangle so much as a gallop. The band often mentions the Velvet Underground in interviews, an old chestnut of an influence that seems to have waned a bit through the ranks of 2010s buzz bands. But yeah, as they barrel through a song like “Right Side of My Brain”, you can hear it easily enough. (Think of those box-set outtakes from the Doug Yule era, “I Can’t Stand It”, “Foggy Notion”, etc.)
On their self-titled debut, which is kind of a marvel in terms of dark pop consistency, you really appreciate the effort put into rerecording fuzzed-out early singles for greater clarity. But then, you hear them rip into “Found Love in a Graveyard” in concert, and you wonder if pop sheen is what they are even about. A few new songs played suggested that they’re still tinkering with their specific mix, adjusting the ratio of hard-driving guitar to light and fluffy vocals. It seems “Stephen”, exceedingly sweet and sharp last night as it is on record, might stand as the twee-ist thing in their songbook for a good, long while. The guitar seems to be winning. A three-person mosh pit, of sorts (it’s pretty tough to have any sort of range of motion in Piano’s, really), broke out during the crisp, precise single “Bad Feeling” and continued on towards the set’s end. Closing the set with “Come on Over”, they sounded downright ferocious, strumming ever-faster until the whole band had sort of a vibrating, hummingbird quality. That one’s got a great push and pull to it, moments of lovely emptiness that set its subsequent rushes up nicely. And when Clifford signals those blitzes, raising her voice to a shout for the only time in any of their songs for a curt “Hey!”, well that’s a note she handled quite nicely.