Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Decoder Ring, Bridezilla @ The Zoo, Brisbane, August 22, 2009

Are Decoder Ring the Australian incarnation of Scottish post-rock maniacs Mogwai? There are certainly a lot of similarities – long epic jam-outs devoid of vocals, melodies that seem to wash over you like acid, burning through your eardrums and knifing into the emotional response receptors of your brain. Regardless of the lofty comparisons, Decoder Ring are as equally enthralling as their northern hemisphere brethren.

A Decoder Ring concert is a dramatic, visceral, and enjoyable exercise. I’ve managed to catch them a number of times but their recent set at the Zoo was the first time I’ve seen them in the post-Lenka, fully instrumental guise. I was a bit sceptical about how they would go about pulling this off, but I should not have been. After all, the band started off as an instrumental electronic-rock act.

As any aspiring music critic does, I arrive too late to catch the first support, whom I’m told on good authority were quite enjoyable. A shame, really. Anyway, Sydney indie outfit Bridezilla, the primary support act, put on a worthy performance that caught me a bit unawares. I had managed to catch them at the Golden Plains festival earlier in the year and they seemed a bit unsure of themselves. However, this performance allayed my doubts. Front-woman Holiday Sidewinder and her Abbie Dobson-esque vocals are the stuff of teenage boy wet dreams, and the violins and saxophone provide fresh dynamics that make the songs, well, a lot more interesting than the usual triple-j ilk that seems to be doing the rounds at the moment. “Chainwork”, “St. Francine” and “Forth and Fine” make appearances during what is a very enjoyable set.

Decoder Ring manages to walk out on stage just before eleven o’clock to a crowd that both seem very appreciative and very inebriated. Actually, I was puzzled by the appearance so many people who seemed so outrageously drunk. For a brief moment I pondered if these characters might be Coldplay fans that had converted to the church of Decoder Ring after the band appeared supporting the British pop behemoths during their recent tour of the country. Of course, this relies on the assumption that Coldplay fans are all severe alcoholics, an argument backed up by the fact that I feel I have to be completely hammered to enjoy Chris Martin’s increasingly boring brand of pop-rock.

Decoder Ring play many of the songs from their recent album “They Blind the Stars, and the Wild Team”. Visual effects that rapidly flicker between cavorting horses and bird migrations keep the eyes occupied while the band plays epic song after epic song, repeating and converging melodies and sounds like they were going out of fashion. My personal favourite from the new record, “Charlotte Ramping” appears early in the set along with “And Grass Will Grow Over Your Cities”. Lead single “Beat the Twilight” prompts wild celebrations from a drunk guy next to me, causing him to shake his fists in the air with unbridled enthusiasm. An instrumental track from Somersault makes an appearance, before they take the foot off the pedal, playing some slower numbers like “Point No Point”. The highlight of the evening has to be the drum’n’bass infused “Serac” from “Fractions”, followed by distortion draped “Welcome Shoppers” from their first long player – arguably the two best songs of the night and cause bodies writhe with pleasure within a sweat dance pit, while senses are sucked out of people’s brains as Decoder Ring construct a gravitational singularity within the venue, and peoples minds’ are dragged beyond an event horizon. You could say I was somewhat impressed.

The band indulge the audience with a perfunctory encore and retire into the night, like gregarious vampires, never to be seen again…..at least until the next date on their Australian tour. They’re not Mogwai, but they are every bit as accomplished.

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