They’re named after a Bob Dylan album and have a keen fan in Paul Kelly. But in fact they have a lot more in common with Crowded House, having recorded a version of ‘I Feel Possessed,’ working with the band’s longtime producer, Mitchell Froom and also producing gorgeous pop songs about love. It was Friday night at Oxford Art Factory where the ARIA-nominated Melbournians, Oh Mercy, played their last headline shows for a year that has proven equally busy and successful.
The first act were Sydney slackers, Step-Panther who did a good job winning over a small crowd with their arsenal of varied tunes. In ‘Fight Like A Knight’ the longhaired trio performed a fun, Violent Femmes-inspired anthem that was complimented with the kind of beefy guitar that The Saints’ Ed Kuepper is synonymous for. They followed this with the short, sharp frenzy of ‘Surf,’ a minute of feedback and intense riffs that conjured up images of the beach and The Shadows on speed.
The Stooges may have sung about ‘No Fun’ first but these guys had their own song with the same name, which boasted a Ramones-like breakneck speed and a hyper drumbeat to challenge even the Energizer bunny. They offered a kind of waltz-like shuffle and then tracks ‘Stare Into The Eyes Of The Wolf’ and ‘Superpowerz’ before closing with the utterly relatable, ‘I Feel Weird’. The latter is hardly a new concept with listeners having heard about freaks and creeps from the likes of Silverchair and Radiohead over the years. But this one certainly packed a wallop and like their set, delivered some short, sharp slacker punk with no more than three chords. The fact this was often more exciting than other groups that muddle with four or more, proves that they’re definitely artists to watch.
The second support came courtesy of Brous AKA Melbourne musician, Sophia Brous who seems to have a set of pipes to rival Kimbra and Felicity Groom. Her vocals encompass everything from sultriness to sweetness and from lightness to the plain haunting with a delivery equally as good at the operatic as it is plain old rock. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about her backing band’s music, that while atmospheric, seemed quite monotone and almost played second fiddle to this main instrument. This showed in the reactions from the audience because while it had grown in size, so too had the chatter of people talking.
Brous whooped and sang by whipping her voice into all manners of different vocal acrobatics while the band played a dreamy mix of soft, psychedelic-sounding pop. They played ‘Little Ticket’ and ‘Streamers’ from their forthcoming debut EP. Overall, these guys proved they are a slow-burning affair.
At 10:30pm the curtains opened to reveal the gushing, Oh Mercy, an outfit that could be known as Alexander Gow’s solo project but then that would shortchange his mates who helped him perform live. They are one enthusiastic lot who played with such wide smiles, you get the impression they’re almost pinching themselves for the successes they’ve notched up to date. ‘Hold Your Hand’ lead the pack with some melodic, Beatlesque pop while ‘Broken Ears’ shared a similar, old-school charm that you could almost imagine it being best enjoyed on vinyl. The group were actually there to plug the release of their sophomore album, Great Barrier Grief on this very format.
‘Blue Lagoon’ saw the introduction of a new member on keys for an intricate and personal number where Gow wore his heart prominently on his sleeve. ‘Let Me Go’ was one described as more “romantic than the others” and its sentiment and easy-on-the-ears music made it a perfect candidate for Crowded House to cover (should they ever want to return the favour), as did the subsequent, ‘Confessions’.
‘Lady Eucalyptus’ was a moody affair and one of four new tracks to be performed on the night as Gow cheekily told us to look out for the lyrics because there’d be a quiz on them later. ‘Europa’ also made its live debut and this one had some catchy rock guitar like Gomez’s ‘Silence’ and was all-stomping. ‘Lay Everything On Me’ meanwhile, would prove itself to be equally infectious and fun.
Gow would then cover a song by a much “older and more handsome man” with Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Future’. With just an electric guitar, Gow would sing some parts a cappella and there were a few punters that thanked God it wasn’t another cover of ‘Hallelujah’. During this the air shifted and became heavy, but thankfully the lightness would return (with Gow’s band) for the catchy pop of ‘Stay, Please Stay’ and the finale, ‘Keith Street’.
The group didn’t play an encore but then, they hardly needed to. The band had put on a good little show and they all appeared to be so grateful, affable and adorable that you almost wanted to bundle them up and gift them to people. Gow did say that Lady Luck had been good to them and it certainly couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of individuals. There is no doubt that there were many people in the crowd who were pleased by the prospect of the band returning next year with a new album. If so, like their work to date, it promises to have feel good tomes about boys meeting girls and old-fashioned romance. In short, Oh Mercy are a group of beautiful people making equally gorgeous music. Sweet.
Originally published on 17 October 2011 at the following website: http://www.pagesdigital.com/review-mercy-step-panther-brous/
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