Live Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Nicholas Allbrook

4 December 2015 | 2:43 pm | Christopher H James

"UMO were utterly fearless, turning many of their adult orientated pop songs inside-out."

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Bathed in purple lights, but without his fellow Pond members, Nicholas Allbrook looked alone and somewhat lost. Clearly trying to establish himself as an entirely different entity to the groups he's associated with, Allbrook left no convention unshattered in trying to pitch himself as an artist who's truly "out there". With histrionic vocals, stream of consciousness lyrics that seemed to be detailing scenes from The Mighty Boosh, plenty of pre-recorded music played straight off a DAT and a posture that suggested he really should get a bit more calcium in his diet, he appeared to be doing something conceptual. Trouble was no one had the faintest idea what it was. "If you can't hear me," Allbrook quipped, clearly nonplussed by the waves of chatter that were often louder than the music, "then come a bit closer." It summed up his night really; it could've been a joke but where was the punch line?

Unknown Mortal Orchestra have certainly come a long way since they first appeared in WA at Southbound Festival in 2012, fronted by a nervous Ruban Nielson who struggled to connect with the crowd. Virtually unrecognisable from that incarnation, Nielson literally bonded with the front row and projected his personality all the way to the back of the room. UMO were utterly fearless, turning many of their adult-orientated pop songs inside-out with extended solos. In particular, Nielson's technique on guitar was something of a revelation, as How Can You Love Me was hijacked midway through by an F/X overdriven meltdown that wouldn't have been out of place in a My Bloody Valentine show. 

"This is another old song," Nielson said to introduce So Good At Being In Trouble. Kids today; that one only came out in 2013, although there did seem to be a hankering amongst the crowd for more of UMO's golden second album as they spontaneously joined in the choruses and gobbled up the proceeding Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark). Can't Keep Checking My Phone made for a joyful, sweaty closer. Aside from those who insisted on holding up their shiny LCD screens (have you people no sense of irony? Or class?) there was much shimmying and gyrating to UMO's most righteous grooves. A quick scan of the faces afterward was ample evidence it had been a revitalising experience for all.