Some Bands Just Sound Dirtier Live

February 10th, 2012

Veronica Falls – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 9, 2012

Listening to the self-titled debut record by London quartet Veronica Falls, it may be tempting to describe them with the oft-maligned label of twee. Certainly, the band displays several of the signifiers of the contentious genre, with sunny, surf-rock guitar riffs and sweet male/female harmonies (not to mention press photos filled with studious button-downs and cardigans), but their show at Music Hall of Williamsburg last night may help them shake off the wimpy trappings of twee.

Opening with the upbeat “Right Side of My Brain,” guitarists Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare stood side by side, harmonizing with drummer Patrick Doyle, while bassist Marion Herbain, focused and solemn, played along. As colorful lights quickly flashed in time with the pulse of the drums, over the course of just a few songs, Veronica Falls’ live sound contained more urgency and aggression than hinted at in the recorded versions. While still polished and poppy, the music was louder and messier, and satisfyingly so. Smiles, another twee staple, were few and far between.

As the band efficiently tore through the set list, such songs as “Stephen,” “Bad Feeling,” and “Beachy Head,” contained some fleeting sonic references to groups like Camera Obscura, Belle and Sebastian and the Vaselines, replacing the latter group’s humor and mischief with an intriguingly skewed and darker take (see for example, the girl-ghost unrequited love tale plaintively told in “Found Love in a Graveyard”). A standout of the night was the band’s rendition of album closer “Come on Over,” with its slow-building instrumental intro growing into a fast-paced, intensely catchy onslaught of harmonies and riffs—just rough and tumble enough to subvert twee. —Alena Kastin