IMG_6263wtmk.jpg Live review from Underground 102:


1. Stop the World
2. Come What May
3. So Good to See You
4. London’s Waking
5. The Sun is Shining
6. Hey You
7. June Sunday
8. Papancha
9. Shape the Light

Next on were the electric side of Stuart Lennon (who’d played acoustic at Underground Kubrick) to add some get-up-and-go to the night. First off, kudos to Stuart for being a canny enough composer to have made his songs fit both styles perfectly; the songs have a complement of different features in this form that’s distinct from their acoustic ones. Secondly, Papancha featured a new drummer; a recent change which, it must be said, suits them down to the ground. His phrasing of beats reminds me a lot of Dave Grohl, in the sense that it hits the correct words hard, and goes easy on the others, all the while giving the song a compelling, bouncing spring in its step. Krist Novoselic once implied that Dave Grohl was a “kickin’ drummer”; this guy is too, and has a similar habit of almost leading the music when it’s at its most intense.

“Frunge” is evidently their portmanteau of ‘folk’ and ‘grunge’, and it’s quite accurate. The textures you hear from Papancha are noticeably 90s in their bubbling flange-tempered distortedness. What completes the mix is a tendency to compose songs almost like a hardcore or punk band – no unnecessary flashy chords, just primary colours, used to create a surprisingly deep and un-hackneyed-sounding feel. The folky aspect may be that the lyrics don’t have the random, spacey quality that many bands termed grunge bands appeared to have, and are significantly less adolescent. There’s also Stuart’s tendency to solo like Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) – simple, sticking to the melody but effective. Whatever it is, it works, ‘cause at their best they sound like a solid rock ‘n’ roll band in the vein of the MC5 with the genteel quality of REM.

Stop the World, always begun with a Kerouac haiku, was a tad over-delivered on the night, but still retained its whirring Love Battery-like mildly psychedelic chug. The set got livelier from then on, with So Good… despite being a slightly slower almost-ballad, being really punchy. The perennial sprightliness of the sing-along The Sun is Shining was nicely broken up with an unusually bluesy solo, sounding like one that could’ve been from a song by The Sleeves’. The bass led Hey You (an excellent decision), and its frustrated but steady subject matter. June Sunday, a sad song was really intense, made more so by the lack of a solo. The way the song seemed to just hang in the heavy air was brilliant (and the accenting of the first two lines of the chorus with the ride cymbal was a great touch). Papancha could’ve been on fIREHOSE’s “Flyin’ the Flannel” album, with its express pace and maelstrom of sound. One quibble I do have was that the set should’ve ended here; up until this point it seemed like the set had been carefully planned to rise in energy and reach a zenith. Shape the Light made the set feel like it went on a bit too long, and this was unnecessary. It didn’t help that it felt oddly prog rock in its feel, wherein the guitars never quite find their groove and are jonesing for some groove. But, let bygones be beegones. Dammit, the rest of the set was just fine, even rousing, so one “extra” song can be easily forgiven.

— Shashwati Kala

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Performances by Papancha: