Laura Palmer

U_Pairs_042.jpg Live Review from Pairs (Shanghai 上海) Live in Hong Kong!

Setlist:

  1. Human Error
  2. Untitled
  3. Untitled
  4. Stretch Freak
  5. Untitled
  6. Untitled
  7. Untitled

Now, the simple fact that 80% of their set is as yet untitled will give you an excellent idea of the band’s laidback attitude even before you hear a single note, and this is only reinforced when they do start playing. However, being laidback is not always a good thing, and Laura Palmer are a good example of why. They have elements that could make them a good band – they use very few pedals, a willingness to go into atonal areas of sound, an emphasis on using the guitars to create atmosphere rather than noodle away at solos; all things that I highly approve of. But, these guys are at the other end of the spectrum from wanky noodling, because there’s very littlehappening during the songs for extended period of time, both sonically and visually. This is even more obvious if you know the intense drama that occupied the life of their namesake from the TV series Twin Peaks. I do appreciate their post-punk, Talking Heads-like inclination to use guitars and keys to create space in, rather than fill up, the soundscape, but they lack that intangible something that makes a song minimalistic rather than empty. I think it’s called focus.

The drumwork was quite good throughout, adopting styles ranging from vaguely military, to classic rock crashdowns, to light-metal thudding with plenty of syncopation. Human Error had a busy, garage-rock feel to it, and you began to be hopeful that the string of “Untitled”s did not mean that the set was correspondingly lacking in content. However, despite some very bluesy and (surprisingly) psychedelic guitar in song no. 2 and the more prog-rock feel of song no. 3, it begins to feel (pretty) vacant. Song no. 5 was a good one, though, with an avant-garde feel, the deadpan repetitions of “I wonder why”, and its generally eerie ominous feel. At their best, they’re reminiscent of the good emo that grew out of hardcore, with its lighter vocals and more personal themes. Song no. 7 was particularly Talking Heads-esque, plus with some rattlesnake-like tambourine, and toneless shredding; but without David Byrne’s lingering voice and poetry, it failed to grip you. This was reflected in the audience’s reactions as well – you could sense that they really wanted to have fun, but they just had nothing to latch on to and really enjoy – hence, the applause for them was scattered and hesitant where it could have been deafening. Their approach does work on some levels, though, and it’s their job, now, to make it work on more.

– Shashwati

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