This gig reflects one of the changes in which I consume music.
Back in the pre-internet days, I would buy one of the inkies (NME or Melody Maker) and trawl through the reviews. For the less mainstream selections, it was almost impossible to get a flavour of a well reviewed LP. You probably weren’t going to hear it on the BBC Radio, unless you were listening to John Peel and he happened to play a song. Listening posts didn’t exist in record shops so it was a question of taking a chance with what remained of your wages from your Saturday job, your weekly wage or your student allowance. You occasionally struck gold but you had to kiss a lot of frogs in the meantime.
Now in 2017, I do things a little different. Whilst occasionally still buying Mojo or Uncut, I’ve noticed that when I do get them, they get thumbed through and clog up the magazine rack.
One of the joys of the Rough Trade album club is exploring the other 9 LPs that are recommended. I regularly stick them on a Tidal playlist and explore them during the month. This has led me to either buy some of their work or going to a gig.
Which is how I find myself at Tufnell Park watching Japanese Breakfast.
I’d heard their first LP “Psychopomp” which was small and perfectly formed when it was released in 2016. It was one of the “other nine” in a Rough Trade selection. This has been quickly followed up by this year’s “Soft Sounds From Another Planet”. Both are very approachable and have a retro aesthetic that would appeal to old Bowie, New Order or Cure fans of my relatively advanced years. They are melodic but with enough darkness or drama to introduce layers of interest.
The band is the solo project of Michelle Zauner of the US band Little Big League. The songs she has written are informed by her reaction to her mother’s death. This shouldn’t cloud your potential to investigate the record. Zauner’s skill was to not create an enormous downer of an LP but wrap her lyrics in an inviting musical setting.
The Dome gig was the last night of their European tour. They were clearly in the mood to let their hair down before flying back to the States the next day – some beers and a late night box of chicken appeared to be on the cards. Zauner was backed by three bandmates who moved between instruments.
For all of the subject matter surrounding the first LP and Zauner’s desire to create a darker type of music, the whole thing is pretty life affirming. “Diving Woman” is a great opener, stretching out invitingly, “Everybody Wants To Love You” brings to mind the playground charm of Altered Images and “Machinist” is up to the minute robot pop. There is enough drama in a stripped back “This House” and “Til Death” is a song looking for a David Lynch movie as a home.
Zauner is a charming and confident front for the band. They’ve got a rich live sound and I could well imagine them going down a storm in the John Peel tent at Glastonbury. It may sound like I’m damning them with faint praise but for an undemanding cold Tuesday evening in a pub down the road from where I live they were just perfect.
The band are picking up momentum and their success is well deserved. I’m looking forward to keeping an ear out for them in the future.