Live review from Underground Kubrick:
1. Come What May
2. So Good to See You
3. Elastic World
4. Stop the World
5. June Sunday
6. London’s Waking
7. Hey You
The next to perform was Stuart Lennon, usually the singer for local rockers Papancha, but who has recently “accidentally gone solo” (a happy by-product of the band’s search for a new bassist). He’s far more experienced at this music thing than both the other bands that night, and it showed. His songwriting has a much more stable and mature form than that of either of the other bands that night because he’s found his particular style of expression. This style, acoustically, is one of simple chord progressions that combine “sweet-sounding” chords with more lopsided and dissonant ones in close proximity, usually moving from one kind to the other in the space of the verse to the chorus. Without this dynamic he would sound like a typical acoustic-folk or pop artiste, but because it does exist he sounds more like alternative-indie mixed with grungy influences. At its best, it is reminiscent of the deceptively casual approach to strong emotions that Pavement took, lulling you into a false sense of “everything’s going to be okay”-ness. This allows for a sarcastic interpretation of his songs because of the way the lyrics mingle with the music, adding a layer of complexity to the songs, which is always positive.
His voice, though, is a bit of an acquired taste– it’s a bit nasally thin, with that slanted quality which makes you feel like it’s missing the note even while hitting it. This kind of edge is not something you can fake (not well, anyway), and is another unique feature of Stuart’s sound, so give him a chance and you may end up quite liking this kind of timbre. It also contrasts well with the smooth and bouncy nature of his guitar-style. Having said that, a little work on having the voice maintain its integrity on the sustained notes wouldn’t hurt.
Everything I just said was basically embodied in Come What May which has a buoyant energy that propels it through its REM-“happy song”-like territory. So Good to See You saw the use of one of the six harmonicas he had with him, which helped to enact the emotional lift that I was talking about as the chorus began. He began Stop the World with a Kerouac haiku (which instantly gives you tonnes of cred) and launched into a grungy ditty which sort of sounded like acoustic Love Battery. Hey You was a definite highlight and a great way to round out the set; despite being a little more conventionally pop-soundng, it gave closure to any pent-up frustrated energy in the previous songs with its annoyed yet level-headed railing against, ostensibly, “The Man”. This sort of maturity in treating a subject is good to hear in songs, and I hope to see more of it in future songs.