Aleks and The Ramps, The Harpoons @ The Workers Club, Melbourne (29/08/2011)

Amidst brisk Monday evening, The Worker’s Club reclaimed its crowd of hipsters and students, ensuring a packed venue for locals Aleks and The Ramps.

In support were The Harpoons, their craft sporting a casual adherence to pop-rock fundamentals. They bear an immediate resemblance to an early incarnation of Little Red, with a cutesy touch of retro-pop in tow. Boasting an impressive cohesion during a near-flawless performance, the band’s only issue appears to be an inoffensive pallet through which they elect to illustrate their talents. It seemed clear from the early stages of their set that The Harpoons are a band that very much plays things by the book – or, specifically, their book. They have identified a winning formula, though their insistence upon its implementation results in a predictable enough affair.

The concern emerged gradually as Bec Rigby began to steal the spotlight, attracting most of the attention during The Harpoon’s set. Rigby could well be the band’s most assured performer, her surging vocal delivery recalling the promise of a young Michael Jackson. Despite the gender disparity, it is a compliment – her voice boasts a powerful, decisive personality and is a great addition to the band’s repertoire. That said, she appears doomed to perform apparently identical songs. Throughout this particular set, Rigby was confined to the performance of lumbering blues-inspired tunes. It’s as if the band understand what works and bear a stubborn refusal to stray from the path. Naturally, the songs they have are near-perfect in their execution, but there’s little left to intrigue or excite audiences by the end of their set. Here we have a young band that possess admirable abilities, though one that must flex its creative muscles.

Headliners Aleks and The Ramps were next to the stage, their set kicking off with little fanfare. They indulge in a brand of playfully articulate art-pop, one that conceals an exotic disconnect. Imagine, for a moment, a collision between the likes of Vampire Weekend and Born Ruffians and you’re beginning to get a feel for what to expect. The Aleks and The Ramps experience is a self-contained trip, their music sporting a mellow yet quirky indulgence. The disparity between the supports and the headliners could not be more obvious, as Aleks and The Ramps presented an exercise in unabashed creativity, a slew of imaginative, inspired arrangements on show. Perhaps their most admirable asset is their assured ability to bring each and every component together, the band displaying a stunning cohesion amidst many wild tangents and obtuse ideas.

Of course, just as bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, the band’s intricacies don’t necessarily yield success – particularly with an already depleted band room awash with conversation. Strangely, the Workers Club had noticeably emptied following The Harpoons’ set and Aleks and The Ramps faced a challenge to retain an audience. Meanwhile, with so much crammed into each song, it was the audience’s challenge to simply keep up with the band’s creativity. Much like The Harpoons, Aleks and The Ramps can be guilty of falling back on a few stylistic foundations – for instance, an apparent insistence upon two-part harmonies to assist- though for the most part, their songs are fluid, shape-shifting compositions. Just as you’re getting a feel for a particular portion of a song, the band’s outlook inexplicably changes, resulting in a somewhat jarring experience.

Aleks and The Ramp’s set at the Worker’s Club did show off the full extent of the band’s abilities, but any casual attendee would surely exit with a truth in tow: they are a polarising band. They’re one of those acts you could either love or hate with reasons plentiful on each side. This writer, however, relishes their eccentric, electronic chaos and above all, their refreshingly creative approach.