Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Electric Ballroom, Camden
7th November 2013
Willow Colios checks out Unknown Mortal Orchestra in London on a world tour that by it’s end will have seen them on the road for twelve solid months.
This is by far the biggest UK gig Unknown Mortal Orchestra have done and the biggest headline show of their career to date. Off the back of their second album, aptly title II, the fan base has swelled somewhat and The Electric Ballroom is packed.
Opening song The Opposite Of Afternoon sounds like the band are playing under water and the vocals sound really muddy and a bit strange. Hang on a minute I think to myself, that’s what Ruban Nielson’s vocals always sound like, but still something doesn’t seem quite right with the sound and there’s a bloke scurrying around between songs to sort things out.
Where the two albums are pretty loungey with just some segments of guitar attack, tonight I’m hoping they might kick out the jams but that’s not quite what what happens; The jams are pretty integral with UMO and I am clearly just being silly. Flitting between new and old material, the band delve into what sounds like a psyched up kids TV or sitcom theme on Jello and Juggernaut. I wouldn’t label this stoner music but I think altering your state of consciousness could make the experience even better.
One At a Time has a crunchy guitar break in the middle, which packs a bit more a of a punch and is reminiscent of Super Furry Animals, reminding us that Unknown Mortal Orchestra are more inventive and interesting than your average band. Bands like this don’t come along that often and tonight I am personally waiting for the devastatingly catchy guitar motifs of Faded In The Morning but have to settle instead for the dirty bass sound of Monki that ploughs the same furrow as (Neil Young &) Crazy Horse’s Billy Talbot on Down By The River.
No Need For A Leader has all the hallmarks of Kraut-Rock pioneers Can, and it’s clear they are happy to wear their influences on their sleeve. The encore to come leaves us in no doubt. Ruban Nielson comes back on stage on his own for a nice enough acoustic version of Swim And Sleep Like A Shark (The band have just released an acoustic EP) and then a definite fan favourite; So Good At Being In Trouble.
To round things off we get a bit of a surprise and it’s actually a real treat. Fellow New Zelander Connan Mockasin (whom I last saw covering David Bowie‘s Moonage Daydream on stage with Kiwi pals Neil Finn and son Liam) is welcomed to the stage for a cover of Can’s Vitamin C.
Mockasin looks every inch the star, ultra-rare Fender Teardrop Stratocaster strapped on and with blonde, almost white hair giving him a statuesque Andy Warhol countenance. A handful of the sold out crowd make their way out but the bulk are happy to freak out with UMO to the very end.