Published on April 13th, 2011 | by Neil1
Review: Spies @ The Workman’s Club
Spies are launching their single ‘Barricade’ downstairs in Whelans on April 23rd. Doors are at 8pm, it’s €8 in with a free copy of the CD, and support is from The Pacifics and Tandem Felix. Neil caught them live a few weeks back…
Croupier, Squarhead and Spies played the Workmans club on Thursday the 24th of March
Spies lie. Otherwise they are just people, and people are boring.
This is what the recorded version of Spies is: a band in disguise. On record they are a bastard alien hybrid of The National’s atonal punctured drums with Editors’ pulsing rhythms, layered with a smooth vocal line. (If the vocals were a Cold War spy, they’d be George Clooney hitting on a picture of himself looking at a picture of himself but with a scarf, and the scarf is made of pure smooth.) It’s a fine record, simple and under-produced, but with no ambition – that’s the full extent of what they seem to be.
Live, they perform with baggage guitarists — as a five-piece they perform with the momentum of a focused three-piece. This band is drums, bass and vocals with an occasional garnish of guitar and elegiac keys that become so focused and overpowering on the final track that the other instrumentation finally capitulates to a 30-minute struggle, the keys’ layering by this stage a taut focused set. The vocals are appropriated from the holy trinity of Ian Curtis, Paul Banks and Tom Smith. It’s a confident performance as I’m sure he knows as it is just a mesh of the aforementioned — in time I hope he gains his own voice, making more of an effort to build a personal sound.
As performers the key members excel: the rhythm section is so intensely in sync that the remaining three need to do little yet still retain a focused sound. Crowd reaction at this kind of gig, where they headline and seem at times gushing with “you really like us “ embarrassment, is pointless to gauge.
The friend factor is overwhelming at these gigs, as shown by the second support act, Squarehead, who were not shot thanks to their obscene unrelenting ability to make me want to read that physics book on my couch (it looks at me funny) , violate the laws of time and space and kill the Beach Boys, Frankie Valli and the Violent Femmes (those really are what they sound like) in one fell swoop, in a selfless act to aid the credibility of Ireland’s music scene by just a shred. It’s by that edge that the first incision in the girl’s arm that makes the pain go away cannot happen, and I want to stop the pain from ever happening. I did not care for Squarehead.
Spies did the only decent thing and dissolved any lingering annoyance. With the Marmite and Bovril filling of this sandwich still yet to be discovered, the opening act Croupier (note: We, The System is still a much better name, you can tell because it’s a much better name) pounced onto stage. (There is no artistic licence taken in saying that they literally pounced… probably.) Croupier (I can’t see that name without thinking of the Clive Owen film, which is also the film where Doctor Who’s future wife Alex Kingston gets naked for no real reason… I presume a charitable reason, and I can’t see the name without thinking of donating) are immediate and a pleasure to watch. I take utmost enjoyment from nerdy frontmen, it’s becoming a little scary… if I interviewed them I could only ask how to get rid of that constant Java update notification that plagues me even now.
Croupier (mmmmmm… anyway) are solid post-hardcore, stubbornly branching from dense layered constant rhythm akin to At the Drive-In, Liars and Youthmovies. “It’s Not the TV It’s the Remote” in particular is played and written as if seeking ATDI’s approval for a future covers act. They play with a schizophrenic disdain and a withered touring look that effortlessly removes them from seeking audience approval. I like to think clapping infuriates them, as it slows down a sleek dense set, played with maturity and comfort — they blend their obvious enjoyment with a forceful understanding of who they are, what they want to achieve… it’s all been done, but it’s always welcome.