Much as the worlds of packaging, clothing and illustration have resorted to mid-century tropes and colour schemes, so the world of modern music has resorted to tired remakes, reboots and rehashes of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. There’s no denying the comfort to be found in the familiar and the nostalgic, but it can also generate intense feelings of claustrophobia and boredom. And so it is with The Wants, the latest in an apparently endless line of US bands who have decided to excavate the, by now, exhausted post-punk archive in the hope of finding inspiration.
We exist in an era where the general public has been given unobstructed access to the latest technologies, where home computers are as capable of creating hit records as the most high tech studios, breaking down class barriers and unleashing a potential wave of pioneers and new taste makers. Similarly, camera phones are capable of making cinema ready movies and homegrown visual creativity is at an almost record high. Yet, for some reason, the latest swell of makers also seems to fear the consequences of that technology. A form of stagnation is ensuing.
Fronted by Madison Velding-VanDam, the New York trio are a by-product of lauded scenesters Bodega, a band trading on the notion that hailing from that city somehow makes them worthy of attention in a crowded scene. Velding-VanDam attracts attention by dancing erratically around the stage, as if being electrocuted by his exquisitely vintage guitar, throwing it away from his lean and sweaty frame as the drummer throws down another polyrhythmic beat for him to spasm to. Wanting to appear jittery and agitated, it’s a pastiche of the affectation pioneered by Ian Curtis of Joy Division and David Byrne of Talking Heads. It doesn’t feel genuine.
Back then, those two groups lived in run-down cities, stole equipment and found escape in literature and theatrical references. Their music was subliminally political and awkward, and provided a getaway for listeners whose lives also lacked happy futures. The nascent punks adopted the musical stylings of funk, itself also in its infancy, for its unifying possibilities and its sense of inclusivity for its players, based on sexuality, gender and colour. The majority of the latest upsurge seems to be comprised of yet more straight, conservative middle-class white folk, profiting from the progress and achievements of those who came before.
That’s not to say the group tonight don’t have any redeeming qualities. That bass line on Cleary A Crisis sounds exactly like a lost Medium Medium track, and the newest single Container is near perfect in its mimicry of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, when he’s doing his impersonation of The Fall‘s late lamented Mark E Smith.
This is now the group’s third visit to this venue alone in the last year, but they play for less than 45 minutes, acknowledging that they don’t actually have that much material, being as they are still in their infancy. Overall it feels like rather disappointing New Wave karaoke by a band that have been so overly hyped of late they’ve stopped trying and are going through the motions. Meanwhile, there’s a DJ downstairs who is playing the original hits by groups like Pigbag, Au Pairs and Devo that is getting a much more enthusiastic reception.