With stiff competition elsewhere in town, it’s a respectable crowd that gather to the warmth of the sounds of Full Ugly as they plough through another impressive and shambolic set. Hardly a band whose name is dropped frequently, there is a slow-expanding fondness through their frequent support slots, and it’s a safe bet that the album for sale ‘(‘let me know if you want one’ says their Myspace) will sell out eventually, that is if their members other bands (who include most of tonight’s bill) don’t sap their energies.
The Harpoons seemed to sneak onto the scene in 2009, vanish for a year then burst back a few months ago to ever increasing hyperbole. Few bands can be in possession of such a talent as singer Bec Rigby, who sings like a somnambulist possessed by Fontella Bass, nor songs as proficient and simple as theirs. Though beginning nervously, their 50s chop, casually deployed 3-part harmonies and bright, simple riffs (on instruments surely twice as old as their players) seem to embolden the band as they progress, matching the increasing volume of punters with each song. Tracks like I Want You Around, All of My Days and Be My Lover betray their full surf-rock/French pop base and at the same time leave enough space for Rigby’s voice to soar. This space in the songs belies their true gift, that of restraint, and a million bands trying to be the next DapTones could watch and learn - and then have their minds blown by Faith, the show-stopping, set-closer. It’s almost inconceivable that these songs aren’t covers.
After that slate-cleaning pop tightness, it’s nice to have Milk Teddy get everything messy and spread reverb and delay all over their sloppy rock. Fronted by Tom Mendelovits (who is filling in on bass for Love Connection’s forthcoming US tour and could seemingly start a career in stand-up comedy should he want to), the band is excitement in a can. It’s hard to predict which turns songs will take, and not be caught up in the fact that the band seem to see the gig as hilarious fun. Mendelovits has a rare talent for missing notes yet providing exactly the atmosphere-capping ululations needed to give the songs greater connection, as well as dropping comments like ‘structurally, that last song was alright, post-structurally however…’. The nimble bass of Rachel Stanyon and guitar of Bronny Potts drives them to places you most definitely want to go. Final song Dreambone is a highlight, as is Mendelovits’s introduction: ‘this next song is going to be released on a forthcoming split seven-inch with The Ancients,’ he announces to the visible and audible shock of the rest of the band, ‘nah, see that was a joke.’
Love Connection have undergone a reinvention since last year’s adulated and thrilling debut album. Despite this love and their imminent tour of the US, the band have written and nearly completed their new album, most of which gets an airing tonight. Gone is the superfluous floor tom, the keyboard chords and guitar slashing have beginnings and ends now, and though the overwhelming feeling of songs as sonic explorations is still there, hand-drawn maps have been replaced by GPS. Songs like You Don’t Need Muscles to Get Love (signed off with a ‘take that Meredith!’ from singer Michael Caterer), The Sun is in Saturn and the dance-inducing Lost City of Gold are thrilling in their force and textures, getting the audience clearly on side from the outset. However, it’s the closing duo of Omni and Sex in the Cinema that blast away fears of difficulty following up that debut album and plant this band firmly in the small pool of ‘justifiably hyped’ Australian bands.