Live at Cargo
Tuesday 29th November
You needn’t be a learned musicologist nor practicing cultural theorist to identify the hallmarks of turn-of-the-decade UK Indie; acres of space between the notes, half-lit atmospherics, drum machines or machine-like drummers with woodblocks, clean and chorused guitar lines brushed by the subtlest shades of electronica. Such are the tropes employed to varying degrees of success by Wild Beasts, Trophy Wife, Dutch Uncles, Vondelpark, Clock Opera, Theme Park and Zulu Winter. And that is to name but a handful.
More than a little late to this flagging, already overcrowded house party are Wirral five piece Outfit. Are they going to loiter coyly in the kitchen before passing out under a pile of coats in the hallway? Or will they empty their carryout bags on the coffee table, wrest control of the iTunes in the lounge and take things up a gear?
It could be the latter, y’know. Outfit have put a whole new spin on the sound of 2011 simply by plotting what appears to be the missing link between The XX’s dour, crepuscular minimalism, the melodic sophistication and airy suspension of Thomas Dolby era Prefab Sprout and the arch, artsy, clipped funk of mid period Orange Juice. It’s an exotic and alluring combination that throws up a number of curious contradictions. Sure, you’ll find yourself singing along like these are songs you’ve known since Youth Club, but you’ll have been snared by a counter-intuitive hook or led down a blind alley by a melody line that never satisfactorily resolves itself. And all the while you’ll be grooving along entranced, sobbing softly into your pint as you go.
Stripped of the grit and fuzz that propels most indie mongrels, they’re nonetheless a suprisingly persuasive proposition live. There’s room for each instrument to breath and sit around the rhythm section’s tough grooving whilst also allowing plenty of foregrounding for their mannered vocals and elliptical lyrics.
Furthermore, they can’t turn it on when they need to; ’Vehicles’ dissolves in a whiteout of frantic wah guitar; whilst a sprawling newie stalks the venue with a daring, if slightly unconvincing proggy swagger. Early single ‘Two Islands’ builds to a euphoric climax over over six measured minutes of groaning guitar, a wistful piano-house inflected riff and wheezing vintage synths that combined, seem to re-imagine ecstatic dance floors strafed not by neon lasers and eye-popping strobes, but bathed instead in soft browns and nostalgic warm oranges.
£6 for a six song set might suggest a lack of gig ready material but across their allotted 25 minutes, Outfit showcase more invention, wit and verve than most bands manage over the course of a set four times that length. Enough, in fact to suggest the oversubscribed party, far from being over, may only just be getting started.