Live Review: Battleships, Safia, The Deadheads, Meg Mac

12 August 2013 | 4:58 pm | Matt MacMaster

Lengthy ornate passages of melancholic guitar work wove themselves around dense churning hooks, and it was arresting and powerful.

Record label The A&R Department have released their first compilation LP, Marshmallow Pavement, and to celebrate they hosted an evening of several acts featured on the record at the Beresford.

Kicking things off was local R&B songstress Meg Mac. Her set was made up of her entire recorded catalogue to date (about the length of an EP, all recorded in Perth), and it was a stunning introduction to what will hopefully be a bright career. Sophisticated songwriting combined with a phenomenal voice to create the best set of the evening.

Her voice effortlessly conveyed everything she needed to communicate, subtly changing emphasis and tone to adjust the levels of pathos and the thematic focus. It not only sounded great, but it boasted deep emotional resonance as well. She had a vocal dexterity that bigger names like Jessie Ware and Amy Winehouse exhibit, and the small but vocal crowd responded well. Keep an eye out for this one.

Next up were scum-rockers The Dead Heads, whose scuzzy slightly-out-of-tune jams were exciting and vigorous. Their arrangements were a strong mix of garage and vague psychedelia, and shouted lyrics jostled for space amongst lengthy passages of crunchy guitar work.

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Despite the looseness of their sound there's a strong melodic sensibility underpinning the whole thing, and it was fun to wrestle with the noise trying to extract a cleaner song. Early '90s guitar sounds were clearly the starting point for them, but they aren't slaves to nostalgia or lazy affectation. Their set was great.

Synth pop outfit Safia were disappointing. Their Facebook describes them as the “newest thing in live electronica”, but that's so far from the truth it's almost offensive. Their set boasted an overly simplistic and bombastic series of regurgitated sub-par references to a range of popular styles that came out sounding more like Eurovision than anything else.

Glistening synth arrangements devoid of both originality and substance fell in a vapid heap on stage and would have been completely boring if it weren't so loud. The only glimmer of hope came when they slowed things down a little and the notes and textures had time to settle in and try and burrow into your ear instead of punching them. Too little, too late.

Rounding out the night was bright young rock band Battleships, whose rich cinematic songs were a welcome antidote. Lengthy ornate passages of melancholic guitar work wove themselves around dense churning hooks, and it was arresting and powerful. It was too short though, so their upcoming headline shows will be a pleasure to catch.