It was pretty dead in The Captain’s Rest when Oliver Stays took to the ‘stage’ on Saturday night, but that certainly had nothing to do with the quality of band on display. Featuring former members of Jocasta Sleeps and Atlas Skye/Drive By Argument, the four piece have already produced some musical brilliance under different guises, and this collaboration follows suit. Opening tracks ‘The Unevolved’ and ‘Hours’ showed this is an already accomplished band who write bits of indie splendour with frenetic tempo and ridiculously catchy chorus action. The set was littered with peaches, such as ‘To Bind The Son Of Adam’ with it’s bursting chant of ‘You can only kill me once’ (that’s how you do it Diana Vickers), and ‘Grenatan’ with it’s floating delay fused guitar work, soothing vocals and poignant xylophone sounding backing. I like a strong finish and Oliver Stays really did this with their final two tracks being as good as you’re going to hear from any band. ‘Team Team Team’ opens with a cracking intricate riff- the kind Bloc Party would like to still be able to produce- before the song displays quiet-loud dynamics to great effect. The guitar work throughout this song was outstanding and really made it for me, complimenting the juiced up vocals during a corker of a chorus. ‘Constantly Dreaming’ was a fitting closer with its opening spurt of ‘it’s 8 pm on a saturday’ sure to be sung back to them by adoring crowds very soon. It’s a great piece of songwriting and it sounded even fuller live with them absolutely smashing it.
There was a band sandwiched between Oliver Stays and NAO, but I try to avoid band bashing and feel it to be counterproductive and unnecessary so I wont be including their set in this review. It is now imprinted on my mind though, so I will say this: I’m all for musicians getting lost in their music, but only if it comes across as sincere and doesn’t take away from what they’re playing by seeming like a parody. I actually felt quite uncomfortable at points with what I was witnessing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so put off a band by the way someone acted on stage, and I’ve seen Rooster live! Feel free to mock me for that.
Anyway, onto tonight’s headliners. North Atlantic Oscillation took a whole different approach to their stage show, being completely understated and letting their music do the posturing. In fact it wasn’t until the 5th song ‘Hollywood Has Ended’ that singer Sam actually introduced the band and a song. I quite liked this as it kept the pace of the gig up and showed that they were confident their songs would win the crowd over. Before our bespectacled frontman piped up we were treated to some delectable electro post rock of the highest order. ‘Cell Count’ was as good as I hoped it would be, with its zany synthed up bass pounding the song along over the poignant ‘It’s amazing what they can do’, which got bigger as it went until it was Michelle McManus size massive. I loved the tempo throughout and there was enough electro leanings to keep any Hot Chip fan happy, while displaying some of the wackiness of The Beta Band. “Drawing Maps From Memories’ is probably the most simplistic song they played, but it was also their best. I could really see this being the backdrop to the big moment in a Guy Ritchie film (nothing with Madge in it, more in the vein of Snatch) as it’s the type of song that can blow you away, and the way it sounded tonight suggests it’s a deep, dark classic in the making. ‘Ritual’ also showed they can do suspense and change it up well; its main body sounded very different to the night’s earlier tracks, then it boomed into prominence with a NAO stamp all over it, providing a euphoric and satisfying close. NAO are a band that intrigues me, and certainly kept me captivated during their set, and I can understand a lot of the hype. Watch out for them playing in a tent at a festival this summer, ‘Drawing maps From memories’ in particular should be something special.
Oliver Stays photo by Justin Curran