White Heat, London
29th July, 2014
London collective The Proper Ornaments exhibit their knack for breezy ’60s pop at recent club gig.
On paper, The Proper Ornaments are a modern indie-pop fiend’s wet dream. Co-fronted by Veronica Falls guitarist James Hoare, the ever-changing line up has featured members of NZCA Lines, Let’s Wrestle and even Scritti Politti. On record, their sound is akin to blending prime cuts of ’60s folk-pop and psychedelia, grating some C86 into the mix and moulding the results into bite-sized, motorik beat-centred nuggets.
In the flesh, they’re about as unshowy as it gets. A simple trio of amps, no instrument changeovers, no fancy lighting and no effects pedals in sight. The obvious, well-worn reference points of their music might not scream originality, but style over substance they ain’t.
Some of the latter is admittedly lost in the absence of long-standing keyboard player Wes Gonzalez (also of Let’s Wrestle) though the overall sound is anything but flimsy. Magazine fires as sharply as its subject matter. Byrds-cum-Darklands-era Mary Chain guitars sparkle over Hoare and co-frontman Max Claps’ laidback harmonies, chirping a disparately sinister chorus of “This magazine’s got a gun to fire/This magazine’s got a sight to hit.”
Much of the set is drawn from “debut album proper”, Wooden Head (apparently last year’s 10 track Waiting For The Summer didn’t count) and as such constituent bursts of noise are almost uniformly short and sweet throughout. Few numbers stray over two-and-a-half minutes – fine for those with short attention spans, frustrating if you expect a little more flesh (which, to be fair, at Madame Jojo’s would be forgivable most other days of the week).
A half-hour of songs flits by in a breeze of carefree jangle but closer Recalling gets the Velvet Underground treatment of being jammed to its illogical conclusion – albeit not to the extent that the sound engineer has to leave. It’s a surge of energy that might have been better spent distributed across the set, but it’s still a joy to see that they have it in them at all. If tonight demonstrates anything about The Proper Ornaments it’s that, as likeable and well-crafted as their sound is, they’re yet to figure out what sort of band should accompany it.
All words and photo by Will Dix. More writing by Will can be found at his author’s archive.