New bands today are always labelled as the new somebody else; School of Seven Bells are no different and have been compared to My Bloody Valentine and The Cocteau Twins. News of these comparisons no doubt helped sell out the Night and Day Café last Friday night for the inaugural appearance of the band in Manchester.
They are often compared to the great shoegazers and after spending an hour or so with them I came to the conclusion that they sound a little bit like My Bloody Valentine fused with a disorientated Neil Sedaka. No that’s not true, they sound a little like My Bloody Valentine, but with a bit less blood and more stick on sparkles. Although frankly my hopes of discovering the saviours of shoegaze sustained a major blow, when after the gig started a bald man in his late 40s, with a shockingly visible beer belly started to robot dance.
The Night and Day is quite an intimate rustic venue and is always dimly lit even in the daytime. The café is a long thin hall with a stage at one end, however parts of the room always seem weirdly absent from the main event. I’m pretty sure I saw a married couple hidden in a corner playing battleships and Sydney Greenstreet talking to some hoodlums amid the gloom. Its old fashioned that way.
The Bells are part of the Brooklyn indie scene which is currently going through a golden age inspired by the new great American bogeyman George W Bush and the new found “hard times”. The trio is led by Benjamin Curtis formally of the Secret Machines and backed up by the vocals of identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and while one twin seems charmingly beguiling the other looks like she would probably go for your throat.
When Curtis announced that Manchester was the date of the tour they were most looking forward to; I kind of believed it, with the same sort of wide eyed innocence that I often adopt when anyone compliments my home town. This was quickly dashed when half way through the set one of the twins asked the crowd: “is there anywhere to go after the show” with a look on her face that suggested she expected to walk out the door to find stark emptiness, bar flaming wicker men, communal Morris dancing and a toothless blind man marauding around rattling pennies in a pewter cup, with a lame monkey perched on his shoulder. She had derision in her eyes for poor old Manchester, derision, of that I am sure.
However leaving aside their doubtful Manchester loving credentials, this is a band with a lot of promise. The electronic niceties that compliment the bands new album are missing live, leaving a sound much rougher around the edges, yet still full of electronic vibrancy. This is complimented by an all female vocal, a great soft juxtaposition to a thrashing, stabbing, background fuzz. Some of the songs sound overly similar but there are standouts. Not least the song ‘Prince of Peace’ with its arabesque melody.
The distant drone of their shoegaze forbearer’s is ever constant during most songs and this is exacerbated more live, than it is on the album and is paired with almost dance-like beats. The band turned out a energetic eleven song set, which could have benefited with a bit more banter with the audience, however their work does blend together well and perhaps benefits from no interruptions, except of course for the odd high pitched whistle from the Night and Day’s creaky sound system. A vocally strong performance was delivered nonetheless and the forty something beer belly man left half way through. Thank god, it appears it just wasn’t for him.