LIVE REVIEW: Oh Mercy @ OAF, Sydney 14/10/11

Oh Mercy | photo by Chris Familton

written by Chris Familton

Step-Panther are on a roll at the moment with their just released debut album and upcoming support shows with Kurt Vile. You wouldn’t think it though as they displayed the same low-key and affable approach to their music that they always do. This was melodic stoner noise-pop of the highest order with some chunky riffs and a slacker vibe that sounded visceral and raw. They played a bunch of tracks off the new record including the loping hooks of Stare into the Eyes of the Wolf, a monolithic Galactic Hurricane and the closer I Feel Weird that was unfortunately derailed by a suicidal guitar lead but did nothing to lessen the impact of their set in the eyes of the enthusiastic punters who arrived early.

Brous were an entirely different proposition. Essentially the project of Victorian Sophie Brous they played a set of artful, melodramatic songs that served to highlight her impressive voice. Arrangements were dense and challenging in the sense that they felt like standard pop songs yet there were layers and details that ran deep. Influences seemed to come from all angles. There were hints of 60s acts like Scott Walker, the prog folk of Joanna Newsom and the eclectic range of  Peruvian Yma Sumac. Many of the intricacies of her sound were lost in the live sound yet her voice still stood out as an exceptional talent.

Oh Mercy are coming off a big year with the release of Great Barrier Grief and an ARIA Award nomination. They have developed into a band that exudes a sense of calm on stage and a confidence and proficiency that belies their still youngish age. The album tracks like Stay, Please Stay, the wistful Confessions and the gorgeous Blue Lagoon drew the biggest responses from the large crowd but it was the newer songs that impressed the most. Frontman Alexander Gow appears to be taking a turn into darker material, allowing some anger and rawness of emotion into his songs and allowing the guitars to get dirtier. He also showed an immense ability to carry a song solo, even throwing some a cappella parts to his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s The Future. Oh Mercy debuted a new member on keyboards which also showed a growing expansion to their indie folk/pop sound. Now they are less Belle and Sebastian and more Bob Dylan meets The Strokes. It will be fascinating to hear the recorded versions of the new songs from a band slowly developing a strong and unique identity.

this review was first published in The Drum Media

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