The Cornish Arms, 15/03/13
Houndstooth, a local four-piece - tonight playing as a trio - do a nice line in emotive folk rock songs without distracting the punters too much from their drinking and chatting. Singer Penny Walker-Keefe's sweet, naive vocals match her guitar style well. Songs are penned with a fresh proficiency and boast an imaginative way with melodies; though their fleshing out seems perfunctory it’s hard to get a true impression with a quarter of the band absent. The lack of sensitivity shown by a very loud and trebly rhythm section doesn’t help either, their sound bouncing around the mostly empty room to little effect.
Tight, snappy, well rehearsed, enthusiastic, these are all words that accurately describe The Staffords’ performance tonight, and its not surprising that it goes down a treat with the gradually growing audience. As if transported from 1981, the band’s new wave power-pop sound is easy to love, and the talent on display impressive; few three-piece’s sound this solid. Mike Barnes and Phoebe Neilson’s harmonies are evocative and used in a refreshingly powerful way. If in times very in debt to The Jam their closing cover of Neil Young's Mr Soul goes down a storm and reminds you of other recent shows that may explain why punter numbers are lower than usual tonight.
Those that are here respond vocally to Jim Murray’s acute DJing selections that keep the infectious positivity high before the young Perth combo The Morning Night open with their devastating take on the Triffids’ Monkey on My Back. Singer Adrian Hoffman's charging performance helps the band make a resolute stab at owning this most sacred of sounds. The band's original material tends toward the less strident end of the rock spectrum but is no less powerful for it, thanks largely to Hoffman's vocals and commanding presence. Ensuing track Trees sees the whole band kicking into gear; Brendan Gaspari's atmospheric guitar work, bassist Michael Savage’s exploiting the power of a good bass riff and drummer Jesse Brown’s powerful yet imaginative timekeeping. Pulling out highlights from their Otis album, tracks like Taking Your Time and Love You Better prove they could easily be massive; they have the hooks, handsomness, work ethic, are prolific and have achieved a lot without hitting their mid-20s. With Ricky Maymi producing their new (and previous) album, his influence infuses A Ride With Violence; a feedback drenched BRMC-style headlong psych-pop charge, highly addictive and a worthy single from their forthcoming album. Continuing the close-your-set-with-a-cover tradition, the band finish with a gunning take on the Easybeats’ I'll Make You Happy, proving they’re going to be a band you’ll hear a lot more of before the year is out.