Live in Brisbane: The Grove EP Launch
The Moderns/The Frets/The Grove @ The Zoo
October 30, 2008
By Sam George-Allen
As we approach the Zoo – one of Brisbane’s foundation venues for local live music – the sound of slightly out-of-time cowbell drifts down to the street, and already I’m in love. It’s Gold Coast rock outfit The Moderns, and it just gets better once we’re inside.
Frontman Samuel John Rees is the most underdressed person in the room, and his anarchic vibe doesn’t disappoint. Half-spoken vocals lend a folk-y feel to some tunes and wail impressively through others, while fully sick guitar solos, courtesy of Willi Hamilton and his awesome ‘tache, give an authentic 70’s vibe.
Can’t say that there’s a sense of anything really new about the Moderns’ stoner-rock songwriting, but authenticity is the buzzword here: these guys feel like they’re for real. Their last song is a great catchy reggae-strummed number reminiscent of the early Clash that begs radio play. Thumbs up.
Next up are Brisbane scene darlings The Frets, who immediately earn cred by modifying the Moderns’ branded kick drum in a most cunning way:
I’m as sick of Australian guys who sing like American girls as anyone, but singer Conrad Sewell wins me over: dude’s got a fierce set of pipes, and more importantly, doesn’t take himself too seriously. The guys have got a dedicated fanbase of Brisbane post-private-school girls, and it’s not hard to see why: their slick brand of danceable guitar-driven pop is all the rage and easily consumable. A standout is “The Road,” a tom-heavy journey through some nice dynamic changes. Despite worrying about their success in a market that seems already saturated with emo-inspired poppery, fans of this kind of stuff shouldn’t take my word for it – the Frets serve up some of the best of what Brisbane’s got to offer in that arena.
Around 10:30, we get to the headliners, The Grove. I didn’t really know what to expect from these guys – their name kind of sounds like a mid-priced resort chain – but the EP they were launching is fresh from being produced by the dude responsible for the Fray, so it’s gotta be good, right? Right?
Turns out it’s actually not too bad (the show, anyway). The guys lack a bit of energy onstage, but maybe it’s just the contrast provided by the wired support acts. The 70s-influenced garage rock they start out with is a little flat, frontman Joel Chant’s retro mic seems more tacky than cool, and by now, I’m a bit tired of bands that sound just like other bands – but just as I’m starting to nod off, the boys bust out some of their newer stuff, and the difference is tangible. The further these guys depart from their self-described ‘Brit-pop’ influences (noooo) the better they get: excellent guitar solos, forays into psychadelia and upping the tempo go down well.
Their last song is fast and big on the rhythm section, with blaring guitar right from the start and a touch of Jane’s Addiction about it that seals my approval. If the Grove keep up the no-bullshit honest-to-goodness rock n’ rolling, and maybe take themselves slightly less seriously, there’s a lot of hope for them yet.