7 March 2012

Boutique rock & everyman beer

It’s not just in the name that we hear hints of misspent youth, but the Alcohotlicks are mature and respectful of their past and the music is invigourating even if you don’t share the era. My era is earlier and most of the audience’s era was later, but we could all feel the raunchy grooves and the beer-spilled bars that speak from this music. One tune was a dedication to Sonic Youth; I heard intimations of Metallica in another; Evan volunteered influences from Dirty Projectors. One tune even sounded more country-ish, perhaps Doobie, to my ears and it was a thing of prickly beauty which was somewhat surprising amongst this fare which was guitar music but of a richly altered form. The guitars were often effected: mostly just sustained and overdriven but there were organ tones there too. The two guitars were interesting both individually and as a pair and that’s not surprising given their 1st and 2nd prizes for guitar at Wangaratta a few years ago.

But they are quite different in style. To my ears, Aaron is more overt, steady and clear with lines that talk in open sentences. Ben is more effected and expansive, not shredding but with a similar voluminous extravagance. But these were their solos, and that was only part of their roles. There was no bass, so they took rhythm duties, too, which were mostly chordal, often steady four-to-the-floor, or pretending at a bass line. To my bassist ears, guitars are always pitched too high for this, but I noticed some intriguing atonal lines from Ben in one tune. I didn’t notice the lack of the bass, and neither did another bassist mate who I talked to, but it changed the aural effect: to middy and chordal and leaving wide open space for the drums. The bass drum thudded away and even led several of the tunes with emotional crescendoes of increasing frequencies of kick. And I noticed the rest of the kit as thuddy and deep, as Evan toyed with standard rock fours and syncopated to fives or whatever. Several tunes were all incessant, woody drums and only sparse cymbals for highlights. This was not a night for the ride: it was more hi-hat or shats (as introduced by Evan) or metal snaps. It was intelligent drumming: quirky riffs that were unfussily sustained. Despite the chords and lines of the duo guitars, it was the drums that defined it for me, with Evan’s wonderfully essential and sometimes dishevelled jazz-chop takes on rock drumming. But this just extended to the band that was so well sorted and settled and agreed, despite some devilishly unexpected repetitions and syncopations. Suffice to say I enjoyed the night!

The Alcohotlicks are Ben Hauptmann (guitar), Aaron Flower (guitar) and Evan Mannell (drums).

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