You can often tell a lot about a band or performer by their choice of cover version. Some will play it safe with the classics, some will choose precursors to the sound they’re crafting and others will just choose whatever the hell it is they feel like. Tonight Love Inks choose the latter and open the show with their already infamous Rock On by David Essex. They manage to strip the song of its quilted waistcoat and gypsy naffness and inject it with some skeletal swamp sludge. That terrible alliteration works as a round up of their entire live show too.
A relatively new Austin trio, despite the various members having been active participants in that city’s vibrant scene for some time, they take their name from a 1932 book on the occult and it’s in keeping with the atmosphere they’ve created within their relatively short existence. They’re quick to deny any ties with the darker side of the novel claiming they found the acts within romantic but onstage they certainly exude an air of other worldliness. Resplendent in black wafty poncho, singer Sherry Leblanc regales the audience with humorous tales of her father’s cocaine antics and her love of Crosby Stills Nash & Young between songs. But once that tinny drum machine kicks in, she gets lost in the moment, her eyes closed, focused purely on the vibe. It’s an enthralling sensation.
They’ve been most often compared to Young Marble Giants and indeed that band was one of the early influences on their sound, but hearing these songs within the confines of a largeish space, the basement of Old Street’s City Arts Music Project, they have a repetitive, almost cosmiche quality. Well, save for the fact that the majority of the songs are incredibly short, often only a couple of minutes long. In fact the only really lengthy number is a newly learned cover of a Cass McCombs piece that, whilst technically impressive, is an awkward dirge in a hypnotic set. Leblanc jokes after playing recent single Blackeye, that they’re going to slow the pace back down. But her affable charisma transforms these ditties about spousal abuse and voodoo into almost quaint lullabies.
The band’s secret strength is guitarist Adam Linnell, a rather handsome chap who almost without effort creates the spidery riffs that so entrance Ms Leblanc. The songs, which seem so fully formed and intensely personal, are constructed out of the thinnest of notes, the sparsest of melodies. Not reliant on such luxuries as a real drummer, they use staccato Bontempi beats and it actually works in their favour. The naivety adds yet another dimension to songs which in other situations might otherwise be rather void. This is but early days for the dream pop upstarts but they show they have the potential to transcend their precedents and to create their own myths and legends.