From Iceland — Psychedelic Normalcy

Psychedelic Normalcy

Published January 11, 2008

Psychedelic Normalcy

Bathed in a purplish glow, the Benny Crespo’s Gang foursome opened up the first seated rock concert in recent memory, with a series of bleeps and blurps. It was the epitome of BCG’s appeal in the form of an overture; a basic rock outfit with light psychedelic tendencies. However, celebrating the release of their debut album, self-titled, at Tjarnarbíó, the Gang did little else throughout the course of the night to elevate themselves to anything above an image of distinct normalcy. On stage, they were polite, shy, and clearly a bit nervous. After a hiatus of nearly a year, perhaps they deserved to be.

They dove into their first number. Heavy bass lines and an even heavier, slightly overpowering drum input chaotically climaxed into an almost transcendent medley of sound. The audience of friends and fans cheered enthusiastically, even shouting and stomping with excitement.

In the interval between songs, somewhere between tuning their instruments and waiting for everyone else to tune theirs, singer Helgi Rúnar and Lovísa awkwardly attempted one-sided small talk with the audience. “Has everyone bought their Christmas presents yet?” asked Lovísa. Then after a painful pause, she breathed, “I haven’t.” From somewhere in the audience I heard a lonely chuckle.

The emphasis on emotional, though not delicate, vocals on their next number, Shine, gave the song singularity in a pool of dense instrumental cogitation. Lovísa’s sweet but un-optimistic cooing had a similarly arresting effect on Come Here, where her band-mates’ thickly woven instrumentals fittingly took the backseat.

Though the openings and endings tended to be less than smooth, the build-ups sometimes predictable, and certainly their stage-presence less than thrilling, the Gang continually managed to build steadily to explosive climaxes and moments of surprising clarity in their songs. Despite the fog machines and the impressive light show, however, the gig felt more like a band practice than a concert. With clumsy, difficult transitions, along with elongated tuning pauses between each song, the band seemed clearly out of practice, and they moved forward together in a rusty state.

Finishing with a heap of unfocused but jarring musical meditations, the band was burning out in a burst of misdirected power. Helgi Rúnar and Lovísa’s vocals suggested a delicate edge to the band’s foundation that was continually left uncultivated by the unrelenting drums and heavy bass. Though intended and successfully executed as little more than a showcase of their recent release, the concert did lack a certain polish, a certain je ne sais quoi. Whether it was focus, ambition, or practice that they lacked, the band’s strengths were as visible as their weaknesses. With time and a little more of any of the aforementioned ingredients, the former will surely prevail.

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