Veronica Falls / Male Bonding / Novella London, Scala
Article written by
Paul M - Mar 19, 2012
The Scala has something of a chequered history. Built in 1920 as a cinema, it was an aircraft parts factory during the war and went almost bankrupt in the 90s when during its phase of showing both art house and adult flix, it was sued by Warners, under the instruction of Stanley Kubrick, who was angry with them for flouting the distribution ban on showing his Clockwork Orange movie. It’s concentrated its focus on music in recent years, though even back in the 70s, it was the scene of an exclusive Iggy and the Stooges gig, the amazing pictures from which ended up adorning the Raw Power LP. It still has some of the glamour of old, with its balcony and tiled spiral stairwells but sadly tonight with a trio of young London acts on display, the sound lets it down badly.
The first to struggle to try to force a way through the muddy acoustic fug are Novella, three very bright eyed girls on guitars and a rockabilly boy drummer. I’ve seen them before so luckily I know their shoegaze / dreampop is better than the sonic mess currently before us.
Male Bonding have been exceptionally prolific over the last couple of years, with 2 albums, 2 EPs and a few singles too. They’re also one of the few non-American bands to have signed to Sub Pop and while the label has long ceased to be limited to the outputs of the hairier inhabitants of Seattle, Male Bonding definitely do have a sound that owes more to the 90s recordings of our chums across the pond than most of their own neighbours here in London. Last time I saw this quartet, about a year or so ago at the Lexington, I wasn’t too fussed about them, as they dothed their caps a little too heartily to Nirvana and Dinosaur Junior, in particular. They seem to have upped their game a gear since, and with what I can decipher through the muffled sound and pounding beats of the over-exuberant drummer, written a few decent new songs. There’s still a scuzzy side to their sound but now they're more accessible; power pop rather than grunge with Fountains of Wayne being a more obvious reference point, and for a couple of tracks at least, Ride and Teenage Fanclub. I’d like to catch them again, though I could probably do without watching the two frontmen too closely; both have a tendency to screw their faces up in a manner that reminds me of the popshot performers in some of the, ahem, art films the Scala used to show…
Pre-gig I was unsure whether Veronica Falls had the draw to sell out a larger venue like this. My concerns were misplaced. It’s brimming; a mix of regular gig goers, music tourists and scenesters. Sound problems aside, I doubt too many will have been disappointed by the polka dot sporting quartet. The excellent current eponymous album on Bella Union provides the majority of material here. Reproduced highlights are Steven, with its borrowed bass riff from the Pixies’ Gigantor (but given uplifting harmonic furnishing), Beachy Head‘s gloomy garage but with a whiff of Throwing Muses’ fuzz pop sensibilities and Bad Feeling, a manic C86 belter, reminiscent of prime time Flatmates. New songs are aired, hinting that the next album is likely to be bloody good too. Don’t be surprised if it’s performed at bigger venues than this one though.