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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

While My Guitar Gently Describes Other People's Guitars

You know how you're always thinking I should write more band reviews?

Sierra Fin, Annandale Hotel, March 2008

Sierra Fin aren’t fooling anybody, walking out on stage all demure and unassuming. Each new song starts, gently, melodically, almost apologetically, and you feel like you’re watching a bubble forming – it grows and swells, swirls with more and more colour and then trembles for a moment before it bursts suddenly and surprisingly, little bits hitting you in the face. Like watching a postal worker benignly sort the mail, knowing he’s got a semi-automatic hidden somewhere nearby. Seemingly tranquil, but with a very real risk of cacophony and carnage.

It’s probably very boring to describe a band as ‘full of contradictions’, so I won’t. But really, Sierra Fin is a band full of contradictions. Joel’s keys should sound 80s-reminiscent, but don’t (I’m not sure I’ve heard keyboards like that since the late eighties, but somehow their use is subtle and well-integrated enough that you’re never prompted to think “Wow. That sure is a lot of keyboard”). Frosty’s drumming is at one time pure pulse-based freight train, and at another, as dapper and restrained as you’d expect from a guy in a waistcoat. Front-of-house, Russ runs the gamut from waifish troubadour to unleashed frenzy-in-a-can, and the songs glide from the lilting and ukulele-laced Blue Day Sun to the frenetic crowd-pleasing explosion that is Wrapped In Plastic. It’s all just a bit special. Throw in a solo ukulele cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and you’ve got yourselves some hell yes.

The talent in this band is as obvious as dog’s bollocks. Big, sunburnt Saint Bernard bollocks at that. Sure, they could do with a bit of polish, and will only get smoother and more exciting over time (which is hopefully where the scrotal metaphor ends), but the songwriting is appreciably and impressively solid, and these gents clearly have mastery over their instruments (fnar!). It’s the kind of easy ability that makes any aspirers look at their feet and whisper ‘bastards’ under their breath.

I want to compare Sierra Fin to Muse, but they’re quirkier. I want to compare them to Ben Folds at his most manic, but they’ve got deeper layers. Sometimes I almost even want to go down the Wilco road, but Sierra Fin are, potentially at least, more lively and interesting. There’s a whole mess of influences in there, but it’s probably not worth picking them apart – Sierra Fin definitely manage to sound a little like a lot of people, but mostly like themselves.

Sierra Fin are not quite there yet, but they’re on their way rapidly, with a window seat, loads of legroom, the good peanuts, and other travel-related metaphors. You really, really want to be waiting for them when the get there, holding up a big sign and waving frantically. Trust me on that.

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