Finding melody amid the fuzz
Tuesday's sold-out show at the Paradise featured an appearance by the much-hyped Scottish quartet Glasvegas, but ghosts were everywhere. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Phil Spector, the Velvet Underground, and '60s girl groups are the beginning, and often the middle and the end, of Glasvegas's sound. Fuzzy, chiming soundscapes carved into the shape of classic pop was the order of the evening - three chords, colossal beats, and boatloads of reverb. And while the band's 55-minute set didn't herald the Second Coming, as the UK press suggests, it was a well-made and at moments redolent taste of rock's quintessential juxtaposition: noise and melody.
The songs from Glasvegas's self-titled debut are saddled with historical touchstones, but they're not offered with retro-hipster attitude. The band's performance was downright earnest, in striking contrast to the music's textural grandeur, and that collision of pageantry and primitiveness is at the heart of tunes such as "Geraldine," a song of devotion delivered by a social worker to her wayward charge, and "Go Square Go," a father's entreaty to his son to fight the school bully. James Allan yelped sincerely in a thick burr over the distorted guitars, massive swaths of sound that might have come entirely unmoored were it not for this band's secret weapon: drummer Caroline McKay, the proverbial eye of the storm, who patiently pummeled her stripped-down kit while standing up, Moe Tucker-style.
Glasvegas does one thing very well, and even with the set at under an hour the songs tended to bleed one into the other: an endless, messy summer of sorry, rousing anthems. But they struck a chord with this mixed-age crowd, which reverently crooned the final verse of "Daddy's Gone," a shimmering divorce song, while Allan stood stock still with his hand on his heart.
Norway's Ida Maria opened with a set of pitch-perfect punk-pop from her debut album, "Fortress 'Round My Heart." On stage, even more than in the studio, Maria found the sweet spot between crafted and crackling, and her band - so anonymous on record - snapped to life. The high point, unexpectedly, was the slow spot: a ravaged rendition of a bittersweet ballad, "Keep Me Warm," which undoubtedly surprised fans familiar only with Maria's raucous singles.
Joan Anderman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.