Gypsy And The Cat, Strange Talk, Matt Walters @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (07/10/2010)

By all rights, Gypsy And The Cat should be pretty happy with themselves. The dynamic duo at the core of band, Lionel Towers and Xavier Bacash, only began writing in the third quarter of 2008. In the space of two years, they have earned the chance to proudly reflect upon a main stage appearance at Splendour In The Grass, a spot on the recent Parklife bill and their own headline tour of eastern Australia. Their final and most recent date proved a homecoming of sorts, an opportunity to wow and amaze audiences in a familiar Melbourne setting.

Matt Walters was first to the Corner Stage, a procession of twinkling keys to gently begin the evening’s proceedings. Walters has found piano accompaniment in friend and fellow musician Christian, who also crafts pleasant harmonies throughout the performance. It was a nice enough overture showcasing Walters’ obvious talents, but two figures professing an uninspiring musical scope rarely contributes towards generating much interest. Such was the result on this occasion, as Walters battled for attention throughout his set. One suspects the inability to engage may arise from the simple truth that, with a mild-mannered acoustic approach, everything Walters attempts is a little on the safe side.

Everything is just fine, which is perhaps an odd charge to be brought against an enthusiastic, accomplished singer-songwriter. Yet ‘fine’ too often fails to turn heads. There’s just something about his style that’s a little too East Of Everything, and I’m certain anyone who knows of the ABC drama will know exactly what I mean by those words. On the bright side, there was a welcome variety of offerings in Walters set, each coloured by different moods and tones, but overall there’s a spark missing and one that will be needed if Walters seeks to separate himself from the ever-growing pack of aspiring solo performers.

Strange Talk were next, making their debut at the Corner Hotel. At once, a powerful surge of synthesizers complimented a dynamite bassline, the venue immediately awakened. Is It Real emerged as an energetic, electro treat, a methodical pop gem that demonstrates so well what Strange Talk are all about; clever, accessible songwriting sensibilities strewn amidst an explosive contemporary approach. Eskimo Boy soon boomed furiously across the venue, a slick efficient chorus driving the catchy gem.

The growing promise of Strange Talk from performance to performance is a simple enough equation: the more you see them, the more you want to see them. The more you hear them, the more you want to hear of them. With songs such as Climbing Walls – an especially delightful cocktail of Passion Pit, Yeasayer and the disbanded Hercules In NY – Strange Talk are staring down an exciting future as a memorable and genuinely enjoyable outfit. Here’s hoping we can catch them during the summer festival season.

The headline act took to the stage, a slew of keys repeated delicately signifying the introduction to their set. Gypsy And The Cat were bathed in green, as a melodramatic overtone began to creep in and dominate the evening. Their roaring instruments threatened to tear the place apart at the seams, the band indulging in songs seemingly inspired by heartfelt 80s pop, each aided by the a limitless microkorg and keyboard configuration. Predictably, Time To Wander scored the biggest response across the venue as eager punters bounced at the foot of the stage enthusiastically. It was a spirited, magical rendition of the stirring pop anthem, and one that worked well to encourage the band’s continued success.

Vocals occasionally proved far from Gypsy’s strongest suit, but a prevailing willingness to engage with the audience throughout their set more than made up for the moments in which they faltered. Til Tomorrow had the unfortunate task of providing the come down in the night very early on, paling in comparison to anything else, flailing and gasping as a real album track- a song that generally fades into obscurity upon the first listen of a record. That said, it will be interesting to hear their debut album when it is released in November; things, when played live, do start to get a bit monotonous, and one hopes that the release will avoid the same fate.

But really, all things considered, Gypsy And The Cat are almost entirely invulnerable to any great attack, as the band certainly proved in their return to Melbourne. They collaborate brilliantly, curating a fine wave of electro-tinged pop, its intricate components fitting together like hand in glove. Everything about their ensemble is just right somehow. It just works. They may be riding on the coat-tails of a popular movement in genre, similarly to Strange Talk perhaps, but they produce their craft with enough ingenuity and potential to warrant more than a passing interest.

Ultimately, this night at the Corner Hotel proved immensely enjoyable, with two important slivers of advice to be taken as souvenirs: Gypsy And The Cat could just be huge, and Strange Talk should be on their way to bigger and better things themselves. Bless your music scene, Melbourne.