Grouplove – The Bowery Ballroom – September 25, 2013
Less than a year since their last big performance in town, the L.A. indie pop-rock band Grouplove returned with a bevy of new songs—and a bit of a new attitude and sound—that showed off a newer sound last night at The Bowery Ballroom. Playing to a packed venue, the quintet threw the kind of joyous dance party that’s often reserved for the city’s bigger rooms. And they got things started with the opening track of their week-old new album, Spreading Rumours, “I’m With You.” This song immediately showed, as it does on the record, Grouplove’s new direction: something more brash than just the sweet, electronic-tinged music they had debuted with on their first album, Never Trust a Happy Song.
The tune began with a quick beat, sparse guitar and bass, and ended in a full-band breakdown, all while relying heavily on the group’s voices. This same sort of style evolution appeared in most of the new material, like “Borderlines and Aliens,” which had an almost Primus-like bassline that turned into a blissful, straight rock chorus, while lead singer Christian Zucconi skewed Eddie Vedder on the vocals and keyboardist Hannah Hooper articulated the cheeky “Arri- Arri- Arri- gato!” shout in the prechorus.
Deeper in the set, Grouplove’s use of hip-hop beats against Vampire Weekend guitars (and even a sample of a steel drum) during “Shark Attack” proved their willingness to experiment with sounds mid-song, all while they wrapped the intentional chaos in a sweet and catchy chorus and kept the crowd dancing. It also didn’t hurt that Hooper’s and Zucconi’s stellar voices could carry just about any song, regardless of genre. The hits from the first album were there, too, like “Colours” and “Tongue Tied.” But if last night’s set is any indication, Grouplove have adjusted their course by mixing genres and adding bold, new material to an already breathtakingly fun live show, and as a result, they’re poised to get even bigger. —Sean O’Kane