LIVE REVIEW: The Wave Pictures, Mr Ben & The Bens @ Cobalt Studios, Newcastle (20.01.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Sam Wall

The saddest thing about the national press’s ritual coverage of who’s-doing-what-with-who at the BRIT awards is its ability to remind us of just how much corporate and corrupt the music industry can be. I say this, not out of spite towards the winner of the most awards in BRIT history, though in private I would, but out of certainty that any music awards panel, not influenced by the marketing departments of large record labels, would have made space this year for both The Wave Pictures and Mr Ben and the Bens.

Mr Ben, those too cool for school hipsters with beautiful pop melodies, funky bass lines and sunshine smiles, really should head up anyone’s ‘best breakthrough’ category of 2018.  A band member down on their usual four-piece, tonight the Bens bristle with their Sunflower Bean meets Devandra Banhart combination of sonic experimentation and three-minute, catchy, melody lines.  Slightly trippy in places, and centred around fine bass work, the trio provide a show which is interesting, unique and at times, incredibly tender.  Shining brightest on How We Used To Write, this is a band who take alternative indie to its most interesting and though they didn’t get a BRIT nomination they can take solace in the fact the local promoter strongly advised that we caught them.  It looks like they’re back up north in April if you missed them.  

Following up, and surely the winners of any ‘hardest working band on the planet’ award, The Wave Pictures are a unique blend of punk work ethic (18 albums in 13 years I believe, though given the numbers, and my lack of maths skills, it’s likely I miscalculated), alternative pop and high lonesome.  Perhaps closest in sound to Whistkeytown meeting the Bunnymen, tonight’s show sees the band move through moments of melancholia to upbeat spirited pop. Orchestrated by frontman David Tattersall, Wave Pictures create their sound through the combination of surreal, romantic, lyrics blended with fine guitar hooks and lush supporting vocals.  Offset by a slightly Monkees/Supergrass between show banter the band could also pick up an award for ‘most surreal’. 

In a parallel world this year’s BRITS will be headlined by a collaboration between Mr Ben and Wave Pictures and, bar Prince’s 15 minute set a few years ago, it’ll be the best teaming in history.

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