There are just two things you need to know about Funeral Party. One, they sound incredibly like The Rapture, by way of The Strokes. And two, they absolutely hate the fact that they sound incredibly like The Rapture, by way of The Strokes.
This tells you everything. It tells you that their sound remains festooned with the trash-indie New York pep of the mid-noughties (new album The Golden Age Of Knowhere was recorded way back in 2008, but parked while they toured, and wrangled with their former label). That there’s still a place for cowbells, though perhaps that place is 2003. And that, despite Funeral Party landing a shedload of press in recent weeks, the most interesting reference in all of it is always to House Of Jealous Lovers. To which Funeral Party are wont to reply: “Fuck The Rapture, we want to sound like Funeral Party.”
See? Everything you need to know. But wait. A few things don’t fit. Their supposed New York sound was actually born in the backend of LA (which particular snook they happily cock in album opener NYC Moves To The Sound of LA). They’re named after The Cure‘s The Funeral Party – a surprisingly maudlin counterpoint to their apparently wafer-thin reference bank. At least two of them have moustaches. And actually they only use the cowbells a little bit.
Oh, and they’re fantastic live. Because while their debut album’s one defining proof is that only Julian Casablancas really knows how to write a Strokes song, Funeral Party’s live show is definitively their own creation. From the off, Audio heaves and seethes with an unlikely alchemy, finding that an energy that seemed precocious on record turns visceral when kettled in a Brighton basement. Kimo Kauhola’s bass leads the line – brash, punchy, and breathing life into the previously trite single, Finale. And where there’s usually reedy adolescence, Chad Elliot’s vocal has a rabble-rousing grit on fan-favourites Chalice and NYC Moves – the choruses sung back with a fist-punching glee that wouldn’t be out of place in Tahrir Square. Sure, Funeral Party are lacking in the overthrow-of-dictators department, but so far Cairo is behind on the moshing and crowd-surfing stakes – somehow in abundance here despite Audio’s bijou quarters.
What can sound lightweight about Funeral Party tonight seems pacey and insouciant – the kind of riff-laden, rollocking noise beloved of Dananananaykroyd; and with a grit that leans to Pulled Apart By Horses, all hollered choruses, well-placed distortion, that surprisingly melodic durge. In short, somehow, miraculously, more than the sum of its Rapture/Strokes parts.
And yet, there’s still something lacking. More standout tracks are definitely needed because, while Funeral Party are engaging throughout, there are few genuine high points. And the truth is, good as they are with a few hundred teenage acolytes to pander to, it’s hard to see where they go from here. And they seem to know it. There are moments tonight when Elliot simply stands exhausted, shaking his head as if at breaking point, suggesting they’re doing all they can just to reach this point. And if so, they’re sunk. Plugging this sound in 2011 will be an unlikely sell, and there’s only so far you can go with a three year old album and a handful of Strokes covers.