Spies at Whelan’s – Review and Photos
Back on home soil following recent tour dates in both Moscow and London, Dublin indie rock group Spies played a home town show to a packed Whelan’s in support of their latest release, the Sea Creature EP. Keeping with the tone set by last year’s excellent ‘Moosehead’ single release, the band’s new material eschews the menacing intensity of their early work, favouring a lighter, more psychedelic tone. Kicking off with 2013 single ‘Distant Shorelines’, Spies’ sound recalls the brooding qualities of indie gloom merchants Interpol and The National, yet filter these influences through to produce something all of their own. As the band launch into ‘Mint and Lime’, guitarist Conor Cusack’s guitar work is reminiscent of ‘My Bloody Valentine’, with howling feedback giving the song a thrillingly sinister atmosphere, while drummer Jeffery Courtney’s simple tambourine and snare rhythm adds the perfect accompaniment.
The band use the occasion to showcase some new material tonight in the form of ‘Night Games’ and ‘Uriah’, with the latter’s high tempo energy adding a welcome change of pace to proceedings. Latest single, the Dracula referencing Quincy Morris hints at the band’s literary influences, while musically displaying a change of tack, with its lulling dreamlike tones. Frontman Michael Broderick is pivotal to Spies’ appeal, possessing a booming baritone voice pitched somewhere between Morrissey and White Lies’ Harry McVeigh, combined with a commanding stage presence that falls on the right side of indie cool without ever trying too hard. He sings every word with a compelling level of emotion, his sunny demeanour often at odds with the dark intense music emanating from the venue speakers. His beautifully poetic lyrics stand up strong when stripped of their musical accompaniment, a rare feat for a young band within this genre. Following a self-deprecating introduction, poking fun at the pop culture referencing title, the band perform new EP track ‘The Holidays of Jed Bartlet’ which proves to be a set highlight. A glorious blend of post punk guitars and pounding drums which even gets some fans down the front headbanging along.
2014 single ‘Moosehead’ showcases the band at their very best, Hugh O’Dwyer’s bass alternating between groovy and intricate, combining with reverb drenched guitars before bursting into a soaring chorus. Ending the set with the title track of their new release, some of the band’s most loyal fans mouth along to every word. “As the evening makes her closing remarks, I’m frightened by the thought of you in another hand”, the song’s lyrics serving as an apt closer to an evening of top notch indie rock. If there is a minor complaint with tonight’s set, it’s the omission of early singles ‘Barricade’ and the stunning ‘Liars Call Me King’. Though this does emphasise the band’s confidence in their new material. With several single and EP releases under their belt, many will be keeping a close eye on Spies (pardon the pun) to see if they can produce an album that lives up to their vast potential. On the evidence of tonight’s performance, they could create something very special indeed.
Review by Gary O’Donnell
Photos by Tudor Marian
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