Live Review: The Rubens, Them Swoops, The Mountains

23 July 2012 | 1:14 pm | Jessie Hunt

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The Sydney stop of The Rubens' Don't Ever Want To Be Found tour was a night of 'sounds'— of three bands who had developed, or were trying to develop, clear, precise sounds to call their own.

The Mountains played a neat little set of folksy melodies and roots arrangements. They seem casual and carefree onstage, and their warm, sunshiny rhythms bring to mind mountains and lakes somewhere in America — the echoes of Neil Young are hard to miss. They, like The Rubens, have captured a certain sound and run with it, and it will be interesting to see where this band end up.

Them Swoops have an enjoyable, if slightly formulaic, indie-pop rock sound. Their tunes have a warm, fuzzy quality to them, and their vocal harmonies are energised and a little more exciting. Unlike the band before or after them, however, they seemed to lack a really distinctive, spirited sound — they seemed to sound similar to several bands making their way around the Sydney music scene at present. Their set closer, with its neat, clear guitar intro, seemed more promising; with time, this band may develop a sound of their own.

The Rubens played a slow, sensual set full of carefully formulated songs. Each track contains echoes of their distinctive sound. With this sound — their rhythm-heavy, blues-tinged rock, combined with those slow, marauding vocals — the band have quite literally hit pay dirt, selling out two consecutive shows at the Oxford Art Factory, despite the fact they haven't yet released their first album (due in November). This is perhaps testimony to the fact that there is something a little grittier, a little more sensual, in The Rubens' music when compared to the harmony-heavy pop that seems to dominate the Sydney music scene these days. In contrast, however, to their gritty, no-holds-barred roots-reminiscent tracks, The Rubens' stage presence seems a little contrived. After the band's lead singer had announced to the crowd several times, “You're a very loose crowd,” the crowd also found themselves being hustled to cheer louder for an encore, which, considering the band had not yet played their best-known track Lay It Down, seemed to be coming whether we cheered or not. Hopefully, as The Rubens play more, their stage presence will become more natural.

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From the Neil Young-esque roots sounds of The Mountains, to the developing indie pop fuzz of Them Swoops, and closing with The Rubens' glorious, big, rock/blues noises, Thursday night was definitely a night of 'sounds'.