London, The Dome
23rd October 2013
Indie pop quartet Veronica Falls deliver an enthralling, if somewhat stifled, set on a recent tour date says Will Dix.
There’s something unhealthily complacent about being a Veronica Falls fan, like going to the same mediocre local again and again. The beer’s overpriced and the landlord threatens to eject you for daring to get a table before buying a drink, but something keeps bringing you back, like a hot barmaid or stocking the right kind of nuts. In Veronica Falls’ case, it’s great songs and a certain homeliness (though I’ll admit I’m biased in having seen them five times before).
Ramones paced opener Beachy Head is one such example, overtly English in its referencing of the East Sussex suicide spot and still as exciting as when it surfaced in 2010. Teenage may have a more transatlantic feel, with lyrics speaking of a generic American teen movie scene – “Driving late at night/I learn to listen to the music you like” – but it still hits like something weirdly personal.
For all the application of words like twee, sweet and breezy to VF’s music over the years, even with the most skeletal set up of drums and amps behind them, they are surprisingly loud. It’s enjoyable to a point, though it clouds the more intricate riffs on songs like debut single Found Love In A Graveyard. An unwanted eureka moment comes with the extended intro to Wedding Day, dispensing with the rhythm section and letting James Hoare and Roxanne Clifford’s guitar and vocal harmonies shine undisturbed. It makes for a glorious twenty seconds or so, before the drums and bass come crashing through and all clarity is lost once again.
Occasionally this edge of fuzziness has its advantages. It airbrushes the many weaknesses of new single Nobody There (a rare and unnecessary hiccup in VF’s back catalogue) while lending an extra bit of aggression to the clattersome verses of set closer Come On Over. Overall though, more is still lost than gained.
After a short stint of hiding round the corner, the four piece return for three bonus tracks, including an outing of Roky Erickson cover Starry Eyes as a finale. For the long term fans, it’s a ballsy but welcome gesture – how often do you see a band close with a b-side? (A b-side that isn’t even their own song at that.) But for those relatively new to Veronica Falls, there’s a risk of alienation, and a stronger chance they won’t be coming back. It’s a shame, because a bigger PA and an extra amp or two could do their live sound wonders.
All words by Will Dix. More writing by Will can be found at his author’s archive.
Photo by Robin Silas Christian.