So here we have a tale of three bands. College bands from the US (New Jersey to be precise) embarking on a trek across Europe together – Big Troubles, Ducktails and Julian Lynch. With varying levels of success, there’s none of them too affluent so they pitch in and help each other out. Three quarters of Big Troubles play as support band to Ducktails and half with Julian Lynch. And hey, they can all play. But that’s by the by.
Big Troubles don’t take themselves seriously at all. They are unrehearsed and making the set up as they go along, and it is all very affable. And the din they make is pretty lovely too, a kind of ‘90s influenced jangle pop with shimmering guitars, indolent drumming and occasional harmonies. But pretty lovely is all it was, nothing more – not particularly memorable.
Yet, using (some) similar nuances, Ducktails completely are memorable. The mastermind of Real Estate member Matthew Mondanile, Ducktails make fuzzy, lo-fi, ambient guitar pop. Mondanile is like a modern-day Stephen Malkmus/ Graham Coxon hybrid. But a happy one born to the hypnagogic generation. His album Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics is bristling n’ breezy alt-pop and he performs with engaged zing. Jazzy spazz-outs and verse-chorus-verse on ‘Apple Way’, ‘Arte Vandelay’ and ‘The Mall’ with ‘Hamilton Road’ being specially requested, and obliged.
Producing three amazing albums in three consecutive years, Lynch is a bit of a virtuoso. Orange You Glad, Mare and this year’s Terra are experimental records informed by Lynch’s area of study, ethnomusicology. But these aren’t scholarly affairs, rather fruitfully accessible collages of folk, jazz and spectral music. However the beautiful harmony and balance of Terra on record is performed with dissonance and little more than aloofness. Aloofness for both the audience and band members it would seem. There was a certain lack of arrangements, and the rapport between Lynch and the rest of the lads was slack, making it feel like a solo jam or demonstration with the backing band just about keeping interest. And there was no saxophone. Hmmmph.
Off stage Big Troubles, Ducktails and Julian Lynch may be on some kind of academic sabbatical, loftily fluting around Europe but if they applied themselves on stage, even a little bit, the trip could be so much better for everyone. With exception of Ducktails. You rock dude.