Manning Bar, Sydney 26-08-06

Review by Shaun Prescott

Somewhere in a sunny Saturday morning café near you there is a potentially vegan, invariably disheveled guy with a dedication to vintage sports coats, and a love for The Model School. He probably loves them because they’re a humble, gentlemanly alt-country rock band with fairly competent lyrics, the odd dabbling in synthetic beats and of course, those sweltering, nostalgic harmonica sections. The Sydney four piece are fairly difficult to dislike: they’re polite, they perform with understated vigour and their songs do have a certain resonating quality that no doubt flourishes with closer at-home listening. Some of their more restrained and downbeat numbers show great potential, while the up-tempo majority of tonight’s set reveal a subtle complexity in this four piece’s composition.

‘Subtle complexity’ isn’t as adequate descriptor for Pivot though. The percussionist is amongst the most beguiling instrumentalists on the Sydney circuit at the moment, puncturing the melodic walls of sound with a driving rhythmic onslaught that never surrenders to mayhem. The layers of lucid melody, coupled with the tumultuous undercurrent of percussion, are intoxicating, made all the more special by the band members themselves. The band is clearly in it’s element onstage, immersed in the precise mechanism of Pivot’s music and embracing every moment of it. Such unbridled enthusiasm had the initially lethargic audience sexually gesticulating by the end of the set.

When one of Sydney’s most outstanding bands promises to play its phenomenal new double album from start to finish with all the bells and whistles attached, in my stubborn self-righteousness I wonder what the hell people are still doing staying at home, or establishing crippling hangovers in less euphonically pleasing surrounds. Bluebottle Kiss has written a career-defining album with Doubt Seeds. It’s a sprawling study of the bands influences, and also a cementation of Jamie Hutchings’ compelling songwriting talent. Doubt Seeds has enormous crossover potential, and it should have propelled the band into the Aussie rock spotlight. But as protocol, they’ve remained humbly to the mid-left of the local music establishment.

Joining the band tonight was a three-piece brass section, four female backing vocalists, and occasional banjo appearance and some delicate, unobtrusive keyboard trimmings. The band trail blazed through my favourite sequence from Sailor’s Knot through to Little Disappearer. Fire Engine is undisputedly one of the band’s greatest moments: a propulsive Sonic Youth mélange of dreary guitars climaxes with what most would recognize as a blatant Slint reference, while the next song Slight Return puts every other punk inspired agit-rock band to shame. And I’m not even exaggerating.

Naturally, there were moments of discomfort. A Little Bit of Light was marred by what appeared to be a mistuned guitar. But let’s not be pedantic. Speak Up Memory, with it’s churning sand-coarse textures was incredibly affecting, buoyed by a guest appearance by Sarah Blasko.

It takes either a lot of courage, or a lot of ego, to pull off a concert like this, and from what I gather Bluebottle Kiss have both these traits in spades. I keenly await their moment of vindication.




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