There’s no escaping the fact that we’ve all got heroes, those almost mythic figures that serve to inspire and motivate. After all, very little in culture and music exists purely in isolation, and much arrives from a process of evolution rather than revolution. At its best, creation is an ongoing process on an ever-moving timeline that occasionally looks back, takes stock and refines established wisdom for the here and now. Yet what happens when influence is translated as flattery by imitation? Do things move forward, or go backwards by simply standing still?
This is a conundrum that’s answered at independent label Bad Elephant’s showcase in this North London venue. Each of the three bands performing tonight – The Rube Goldberg Machine, The Far Meadow and Konchordat – play their sets with a high degree of musical competency, yet it’s impossible to shake the feeling that the concept of influence has been mistaken for simulation.
Openers The Rube Goldberg Machine reveal themselves to an unnecessary degree. Theirs is a breezy variant of almost pastoral pop that gives way to lengthy instrumental runs, and it’s difficult to ascertain whether these excursions serve the song or the song serves them. A reading of Elbow’s Leaders Of The Free World is their undoing as they simultaneously display both their aspirations and shortcomings.
Elsewhere, feelings of sympathy are directed at The Far Meadow’s Marguerita Alexandrou, who appears to be a guest in the band that she’s singing for. As displayed by Dinosaurs and the epically extended Himalaya Flashmob, Alexandrou’s purpose seems to be to usher in dexterous and extended workouts via a couple of sung verses, before disappearing from the stage to leave her bandmates to imagine that it’s 1972.
Headliners Konchordat go some way to making amends. Dependably heavy, Stuart Martin’s downtuned and tar-thick riffing offers grit and a sense of purpose that’s been lacking for most of the evening. Save Me From The Rain is powered by twisting six-string action and shifting time signatures that move the gears up several notches. Alas, the musical journeys of The New Crusade and The Human Element, among others, suggest a penchant for excessively scenic routes definitely off the beaten track, as well as well-thumbed copies of A Farewell To Kings and Master Of Puppets.
Ultimately, tonight’s bands are way too in thrall to their influences to pull away from that gravitational pull to make their own orbit.