Bearhug, Devotional, Beef Jerk @ GoodGod, Sydney (4/5/2012)

I really like Beef Jerk – garage rock songs bashed out with power and precision. They make a virtue of simplicity, bringing a rawness and immediacy to these tunes, the best of which include slyly autobiographical slacker song The Beef Jerk Story. Sometimes the vocals got buried in the mix, but this was a rare glitch in an otherwise powerhouse set. On a side note, look up their song Move Into the Ocean, a great introduction to their trash culture aesthetic that features possibly the best explanation of why a band chose their name I have ever come across.

If Beef Jerk seem to have some sprung from some cartoon world of surfing trips and monster truck rallies, Devotional seem to have come from someplace entirely more ethereal. If you know where to look on Youtube, there’s a whole underground scene of bands like this, who favour impressionistic soundscapes over structure and familiarity, groups who worship Talk Talk and Galaxie 500 like most worship the Beatles and The Stones. Amidst the spidery guitar lines and sprawling dream pop soundscapes, a cover of X’s Don’t Cry No Tears is an unexpected highlight, bringing an unexpected haunting quality to the downbeat punk classic.

Last but certainly not least are Bearhug, tonight launching their long, long-awaited debut record, the oddly-named but amiably tuneful Bill, Dance, Shiner. The jangly Angeline is an early highlight, its straightforward romanticism typical of the new polished sound they have crafted, though new album cuts Be Fine and forthcoming single Over The Hill also impress, full of warmth and possessing an easy tunefulness.

At times, Broken Social Scene are an obvious touchstone, but, hey you could do a lot worse than taking inspiration from one of rock’s most idiosyncratic and vibrant creative forces. As with the Canadians, there’s a lot of detail here, melodies layered on top of other melodies, but there’s also more of a West Coast influence, a rocking prettiness. Their three guitars often sound like double this number as melodies are layered on top of each other, creating a fog of delirious reverb. With songs punctuated by exuberant if fairly nonsensical banter, they’re difficult not to like.